Councillors have given the green light for new eco pods to be built at Mt Congreve Gardens in Waterford to house up to 22 tourists on site. A Comeragh Special meeting was held on Wednesday, June 5, at which the works were proposed by Cllr John O’Leary and seconded by Cllr Liam Brazil. The meeting was held to finalise a Part 8 planning process for the works.

The objective of the works is to provide on-site accommodation which will enhance the recently completed visitor centre works at Mount Congreve House and Gardens. The proposed works lie within the attendant grounds of Mount Congreve House and demesne, a protected structure. The proposed works will consist of the installation of five eco pods, three of which will consist of two-bedroom units and two of which will consist of one-bedroom units, to provide on-site visitor accommodation.

The works include the refurbishment of the existing middle and upper gate lodges to provide on-site visitor accommodation, along with the provision of drainage, water supply, electrical supply, lighting, access roads, car parking, landscaping and all other ancillary works to service the eco pods and gate lodges.

The meeting heard that there were three submissions lodged, including one concerning impact on wildlife in the area. The planning authority has determined that there will be no likelihood of significant effects on the environment arising from the proposed development. The meeting heard that, overall, all the new proposals combined will mean that up to 22 people can be accommodated in the grounds of Mt Congreve.

The OPW had a number of concerns, most notably that any works be reversible. The access to the pods is part of an older road, while the foundations of the pods sit on pads, which can be removed. The works to the Gate Lodges are being carried out in consultation with conservation experts.

Current Leas Cathaoirleach of Comeragh District Council, Fianna Fáil Cllr John O’Leary proposed the works go ahead, describing Mt Congreve as “one of the greatest gardens in the world” which is home to six generations of Congreves.

Built back in the 1760s by local architect John Roberts, the gardens are frequented by visitors all year round due to its everchanging fragrance and colour. “It has one of the biggest plant collections in the world,” said Cllr O’Leary. “Visitors who avail of this accommodation in the Estate can look forward to a haven of plant history as well as those looking to relax in what will be very natural surroundings.”

Visitors will be able to relax in the newly updated Stables Café, which is doing a great trade at the moment. The aim of Waterford Council is to help welcome up to 150,000 visitors every year. With plans for 22 tourism beds, “who knows, into the future, that may grow even bigger,” added Cllr O’Leary.

Fine Gael Cllr Liam Brazil seconded the motion. “I think it’s a good news story for Waterford, to see 22 beds there,” while adding that Waterford has plenty of things to see but it needs more bed nights, he said.
Fine Gael Cllr Seanie Power agreed with the the idea of having the pods located in the woodlands, while Labour Party Cllr Ger Barron, at his last every Local Authority meeting, said it would a “huge addition to the Waterford tourism product.”

“It’s one of the most beautiful gardens in Europe, in fact in the world,” said Cllr Barron. “It’s upwards and onwards. It’s going to be a great facility, and I look forward to spending time down there.”

Independent Cllr Declan Clune said it was remarkable to see the transformation of Mt Congreve in recent years. “We’re so lucky to have that world class attraction right on our doorsteps, and it’s to see it develop even more now with the addition of these pods,” he said.