Castletown House, a Palladian country house built in 1722 formed the centrepiece of an 800-acre (320 hectare) estate. It was sold to developers in 1965 but is now divided between public and private ownership as per the map below.
Portions of land owned are colour-coded based on ownership as follows:
- Office of Public Works (green)
- Kildare Country Council (yellow)
- Private developers (blue)
The Office of Public Works (OPW) owns the house, lands to the front of the house down to the River Liffey, and most of the woodlands to the back of the house. Kildare County Council owns a small section of the woodlands but the private developers own the back lawns, the mound field, and property between the house and the back entrance (including the gravel public car park, the Enchanted Wood, and the protected sightline to the Wonderful Barn).
235-acres (95 hectares) of Castletown Demesne were sold by Janus Securities Ltd to developers Killross Properties and Springwood following a closed bid.
The OPW was unsuccessful in its bid to purchase the lands in pursuance of its goal to reunite the demesne lands under public ownership. Ref. the Irish Times on 12th April 2023.
Most of the land in private ownership is zoned as Objective F (Open Space and Amenity) under the Celbridge Local Area Plan 2017 - 2023 but some land close to the M4 interchange is zoned as Objective G (Green Belt). This is illustrated on the Land Use Zoning Objectives Map.
The only acceptable land uses under zonings F and G are as follows:
Source: Pages 73-74 of the Celbridge Local Area Plan 2017 - 2023
- The Castletown lands are not the subject of any current planning applications.
- The Celbridge Local Area Plan 2017 - 2023 (LAP) will remain valid until the new plan is put in place, which is likely to be in 2025.
- Any proposed development on privately owned lands must go through the proper planning process. Any planning applications will be assessed under the current LAP zoning of F Open Space & Amenity and G Green Belt.
- Current zoning would NOT allow for houses to be built there.
- The private landowner made a statement on 15th September 2023 that they have never intended to and will never propose or promote the use of the land at Castletown for housing.
- Any planning application will be assessed by KCC planners under the current LAP and national policies around protecting the local area with key considerations such as impact on biodiversity also taken into account.
- Any potential rezoning of lands takes place through the consultation process of drafting a new LAP.
- Any proposed changes to LAPs made during the drafting process (e.g. changes to zoning) will be voted on for acceptance by the local municipal district. councillors. Currently, for the Celbridge & Leixlip Municipal District there are seven councillors. It is likely that the June 2024 local elections will have taken place (leading to a possible change of councillors) by the time the next LAP goes into consultation.
- Any activities that could be considered as lobbying should be registered at lobbying.ie Groups and individuals should register each time they approach a councillor to suggest changes to current zoning as it is considered lobbying so needs to be declared. Asking questions or requesting information from councillors is not considered lobbying, but it is important that everyone is aware of this.
The car park on the back road to Castletown House is on land owned by the private landowner and is no longer the official public car park for visitors to Castletown House. The OPW had a license agreement for its usage from 2007 but this agreement lapsed and there is no agreement with the current landowner.
|Date||Description of Events|
|Friday 08/09/2023||The OPW issued a press release advising that the current public car park at Castletown House would be closed permanently by the private landowner on 15th September 2023 at 22:00 and that vehicles seeking to access Castletown House would need to do so via the only OPW-owned vehicular access route to Castletown House, the traditional Lime Avenue access route from Celbridge.|
|Monday 11/09/2023||Work was due to commence on a temporary visitor car park near the pump house in the meadow between Lime Avenue and the River Liffey to facilitate continued access to Castletown House & Parklands for those who travel by car and bus but peaceful protesters prevented contractors from doing so. A series of engagements with the community began.|
|Friday 15/09/2023||The OPW abandoned plans to install the temporary visitor car park facilities. Closure of the car park was also deferred pending the outcome of negotiations between the OPW and the landowner. The M4 access road and car park at Castletown House were to remain operational for at least two weeks to facilitate dialogue between the OPW and the owner of the private lands at Castletown Estate.|
|Friday 29/09/2023||The OPW issued a press release advising that they were unable to reach an agreement with the private landowner in mediation. As a result, the back entrance from the M4 closed for public access on the evening of 29th September 2023 and a limited amount of parking was to be available for visitors at Castletown House for vehicles accessing via Lime Avenue.|
The only vehicular route is now the OPW-owned Lime Avenue where vehicles are in contention with pedestrians, cyclists, and scooters. OPW is encouraging visitors to walk, cycle or use public transport when visiting Castletown House and Parklands.
Locals are holding a peaceful protest at the Celbridge Gate whereby they prevent all but Blue Badge (Disabled Person's Parking Card) holders and essential services to park up in the village and walk to the house.
- National access to one of Ireland’s most important heritage sites is severely restricted due to the closure of access to Castletown from the M4 - the site is visited by close to 1 million people per annum (1,070,673 in 2021 and 958,921 in 2022) so large numbers will be impacted by this.
- This was threatened from the evening of Friday 15th September but deferred pending negotiations. Agreement was not reached so the closure came into effect on the evening of Friday 29th September.
- Lands at Castletown are in the ownership of a private developer who has broadly stated that land uses envisaged include leisure, amenity, recreational, tourism, and employment uses. However, there are few uses consistent with the Open Space and Amenity zoning that are likely to be highly profitable for the private landowner.
- The impact of any development that might be profitable for the landowner would be unjustified in what has always been a refuge for biodiversity and wildlife.
- The private landowner have exercised their rights to prevent members of the public accessing their land thus blocking the public from traversing the back field between the back lawn of Castletown House and the woodlands, from walking along the protected sightline between Castletown House and the Wonderful Barn, etc.
- It is feared that the private landowner will not pursue less-profitable projects such as the delivery of greenways (ref. 2022 Greater Dublin Cycle Network), tree planting, etc.
- The OPW had proposed that access for about 40 cars would be facilitated in the short-term via the 1km long Lime Avenue from the Celbridge Gate and while this is a better option than the temporary car park proposal, it is not acceptable for any more than 2 or 3 weeks.
- This compromise solution was reached after engagement with the community who objected to the OPW's proposals to install a temporary hardcore road and car park in the meadow between Lime Avenue (access road from Celbridge Gate) and the River Liffey. The suggested temporary car park would have constituted unauthorised development and have a devastating impact on a meadow that is close to achieving Annex 1 status under the EU habitats directive after a lot of hard work promoting biodiversity by OPW groundskeepers.
- This short-term solution would introduce contention between vehicles and vulnerable road users (pedestrians, cyclists, and kids on scooters) at the Celbridge Gate and on Lime Avenue thereby exposing them to increased risk from cars, tour buses, delivery vehicles, machinery and refuse collection trucks.
- Large vehicles will be unable to enter through the protected Castletown Gates from Main Street so will need to drive 800m along the residential Castletown Drive after entering the Castletown housing estate from the Castletown Estate North entrance further up the Maynooth Road, again putting vulnerable road users at risk.
- Increased pressure for parking in Celbridge town centre would jeopardise Town Renewal Plan projects to promote space for people rather than cars including the removal of some on-street parking on Main Street.
- The biodiversity meadow has been protected, for now - a car park in the meadow between Lime Avenue and the River Liffey can never be considered an acceptable solution.
- Visitors with disabilities (disability access permit holders, active age and other mobility impaired visitors) have been able to access Castletown House via Lime Avenue since the access road from the M4 closed
- A Protocol has been agreed for a temporary solution that gives limited access for OPW employees, contractors, security personnel and service agents required for the management, maintenance and repair of the Castletown House and Estate.
- Manages access for about 20 vehicles per day
- OPW gate personnel will manage vehicular access at all times from a temporary garden shed type shelter structure at the Celbridge Gate
- Retains a pedestrian priority focus on Lime Avenue - with a 10km/h speed limit
- OPW to communicate daily with a representative of local representative community groups regarding operation of the Protocol (advising of expected vehicular access needs via the Celbridge Gate / Lime Avenue entrance for the following day, review of vehicle movements which have occurred / discussion on any concerns)
A representative of community groups may attend near the gate to satisfy themselves that no material changes to the agreed vehicular access protocol occur
No photographs or videos of vehicles or their occupants should be captured or vehicle details such as registration numbers
OPW will continue it’s ongoing efforts to progress the reuniting of the historic demesne and access issues to Castletown House and Estate in parallel
- Working group to be established to progress the reuniting of the historic demesne and access issues to Castletown House and Estate
- Negotiations to arrive at an agreement that
- Puts the interests of biodiversity, wildlife, the local community, and visitors to Castletown Parklands at the heart of the solution
- Reinstates access via the M4 access route as quickly as possible and in the interim (pending a better access solution for vehicles)
- Explore use of other access routes and/ or modes of transporting visitors to keep the pedestrian and cyclist focus on Lime Avenue.
- Restrict traffic on Lime Avenue to visitors with disabilities (disability access permit holders, active age and other mobility impaired visitors) and to very limited vehicular access for OPW employees, contractors,
security personnel and service agents required for the management, maintenance and repair of the house and estate
- Explore parking solutions outside OPW owned land, including near the Celbridge Gate and the Batty Langley Lodge Gate - it is acceptable for people without mobility issues to walk 1km from parking to Castletown House.
- Long-term: The state needs to procure all lands currently in private ownership so
- Visitors have unimpeded access to the car park
- Castletown Demesne can be reunited and used in its entirety for the intended Open Space and Amenity usage
- Fit for purpose car parking facilities can be provided for visitors
- Strategic projects such as greenways (2022 Greater Dublin Cycle Network) can proceed
- 06/07/2022 - Irish Times: Commercial Property Section Notification that 235 Acres of Castletown Demesne with 'future development potential' was on sale with Guide Price of €5 million
- 25/07/2022 - Irish Times: Letter from Executive Director of the Irish Georgian Society calling for Castletown House lands to be brought into public ownership
- 12/04/2023 - Irish Times: Report on Sale of Lands at Castletown to Private Developer
- 08/09/2023 - OPW Press Release: Changed Access Route to Castletown House
- 11/09/2023 - OPW Press Release: After meeting with Public Representatives and Members of the Community
- 12/09/2023 - Irish Times: 'Emotions are High': Kildare Locals Concerned over Development of Lands at Castletown House
- 12/09/2023 - The Journal: Private owners of land at Castletown House Limit Road Access to the Historic Site
- 12/09/2023 - The Journal: OPW Minister of State sasys limiting of road access to Castletown House is a 'serious dilemma'
- 12/09/2023 - Newstalk: Castletown House 'going to be a no-go for a lot of people
- 12/09/2023 - RTE Morning Ireland Audio Clip: Access to Historic Site Castletown House in Co. Kildare Sparks Row
- 12/09/2023 - RTE: Protest Over Plan to Restrict Castletown House Access
- 12/09/2023 - KFM Radio: Locals in North Kildare Protest over Access to Castletown House
- 12/09/2023 - BusinessPlus: Private Developer Outbid OPW Leaving Limited Access to Historic Castletown House
- 13/09/2023 - OPW Press Release: Installation of a Temporary Car Park will not proceed
- 15/09/2023 - Irish Times: Fight for Castletown: ‘The community spirit out here, it’s just incredible’
- 15/09/2023 - OPW Press Release: Announcement of a Temporary Stay (until at least 29/09/2023) on closing of Car Park pending negotiations with Private Landowner
- 15/09/2023 - Statement from Private Landowner
- 15/09/2023 - The Journal: Road Access to Remain Open Temporarily as OPW and Private Owners Re-engage
- 15/09/2023 - RTE: Plans to restrict Castletown House access delayed
- 29/09/2023 - OPW Press Release: Announcement that Agreement has not been reached and that the back entrance will close the evening of 29/09/2023
- 29/09/2023 - Irish Times: OPW unable to reach public access deal with Castletown House developers
- 30/09/2023 - KFM: Calls for ministerial involvement in Castletown House Access
- 03/10/2023 - The Journal: Residents say they have 'no option' but to consider seeking injunction to keep Castletown entrance open
- 03/10/2023 - KFM: Kildare North TDs meeting Minister over Castletown Today - includes Kildare Today Audio Clip
- 03/10/2023 - OPW Press Release: OPW Minister Patrick O'Donovan meets local Oireachtas Members to work together to resolve Castletown access
- 05/10/2023 - Newstalk: Castletown House - Protesters block entrances as dispute continues
- 05/10/2023 - KFM: Over 100 People Gathered at the Gates of Castletown House in Celbridge Last Night
- 09/10/2023 - Extra.ie: Locals dig in with 24/7 Blockade over Castletown Access
- 12/10/2023 - OPW Press Release: New Working Group established for Castletown
- 13/10/2023 - KFM: Bernard Durkan Raises Castletown House Issue in Dail - includes Audio Clip
- 17/10/2023 - OPW Information on Castletown House and Estate page containing:
- 17/10/2023 - KFM: OPW to Push Ahead with Allowing Traffic up Avenue at Castletown House
- 23/10/2023 - OPW Press Release: Castletown House and Estate facing temporary closure
- 23/10/2023 - Kildare Live / Leinster Leader: Castletown House and Estate Facing Temporary Closure
- 23/10/2023 - KFM: OPW Says Castletown House & Estate Faces Temporary Closure
- 24/10/2023 - OPW Press Release: Minister for the OPW, Patrick O’Donovan, T.D., appeals to the community to allow vehicular access to OPW staff at Castletown
- 25/10/2023 - The Journal: Protesters deny claims they 'intimidated' Castletown Estate workers, as OPW makes plea
- 25/10/2023 - KFM: 'No Negotiations' between the Developer and OPW regarding Castletown House
- 25/10/2023 - KFM: Listen Back to Interviews with Minister Patrick O'Donovan T.D. and Chair of Save Castletown Kevin Mullen includes Audio Clips
- 10/11/2023 - Update to OPW Information on Castletown House and Estate page to add new Frequently Asked Questions relating to the Impact of Staff being unable to access their workplace in their own vehicles