TWO BROTHERS, WHO are well-known local businessmen in Bray, have received permission to develop almost 100 apartments on the town’s seafront.
Lauro Enterprises has got the green light to build 92 apartments at a site on Strand Road next to the iconic Bray Head Hotel and the Star Leisure arcade.
It will also develop five commercial units, space for car parking and a crèche. To make space for the development, some houses to the rear of the site will be demolished.
The company is owned by Brian and Gerard Freney, two established local business figures who own and operate several enterprises in the area.
Their family used to own the famous Dawson’s Amusements arcade, which closed in 2007 and demolished in 2013. The pair owns the arcade’s sister business, Star Leisure, which is still operating.
They have been trying to develop the site next to Star Leisure for years, however it has proved controversial due to its scenic location on the seafront next to the Bray Head Hotel, which is a protected building and famous in the area.
As Ireland’s largest film studio, Ardmore, is located in Bray, scenes from several movies have been filmed at the hotel, including The Commitments, Breakfast on Pluto and My Left Foot.
Although it has been closed for years, the possibility that apartment blocks would loom over the hotel was one of the reasons why Wicklow County Council initially refused permission for the apartment development.
Several locals also opposed the project, including the Bray Head Residents Association. The main point of contention is the size of the development: the apartments were to be built in three blocks, the largest of which would be seven storeys.
Locals said that they were concerned about the height, density and scale of the buildings, saying that it would be “visually obtrusive on the landscape” and “out of character with existing developments”.
They said that they wanted to protect the seafront “as an important resource”, as well as preserving the character of the area.
Wicklow council sided with the locals and refused permission for the project, however Lauro Enterprises appealed to An Bord Pleanála and the council’s decision was overturned.
The planning board scaled down the development slightly, stipulating that one storey must be removed from the largest block.
In the report on the project, the planning board inspector said that the site is currently “underutilised”.
“Considering its prime, prominent location, I consider that a more appropriate form of development than what currently exists would be appropriate,” she said.
“The Bray Head Hotel is currently shut, in a dilapidated state and would benefit from some substantial refurbishment.
“I consider that the design of the proposal is acceptable (and) would add to the streetscape.”
The brothers have previously tried to develop the site, applying in 2009 for permission to build 125 apartments. Getting the project approved could prove to be lucrative move for the Freneys considering its prime location.
The brothers are already pulling in a decent wad of cash from Star Leisure. Accounts for the business show that the pair received pay of just under €2 million between them from the firm during its 2016 financial year.