The multi-million site was bought by Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council in 2014
A multi-million 18th Century house and gardens once earmarked for a housing development is to be opened to the public.
Fernhill House and Gardens in Sandyford was bought by Dun Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council (DLRCC) in 2014 for a snip of what it made in 2007 from €45m to €4.5m.
In a statement the local authority said: “(It) proposes to develop the Park over a five-year period with financial provision being made through the Parks Capital Programme and (make it into a regional amenity).
“The last great gardener custodian of 150 years of famous planting at Fernhill Gardens, Sally Walker, was responsible for the preservation and further development of one of Ireland's most celebrated cultivated landscapes.”
The local authority stated: “Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council (DLRCC) intends to develop the property as a Regional public park.
"Fernhill is a former substantial family residence with ancillary buildings(gardens, parkland, woodland and agricultural land)” just south of the Enniskerry Road at Stepaside, in south Dublin.
The Council adds that it aims to, “provide a safe and secure (areas), opportunities for informal and or formal play and links to Barnacullia Road and to the Three Rock Mountain.
“Part of the plans incorporate, that a right of way is maintained, enhanced and developed as an integral part of the park.
"The historic natural character of the site presents the opportunity for developing a unique public amenity, not only to serve the residents of DLRCC and surrounding region, but also as a prime visitor attraction in close proximity to Dublin and the Wicklow Mountains National Park.
“Fernhill House and Gardens form an important component of the historic landscape on the fringe of Dublin City and an impressive example of a small estate.
"The former substantial family residence with ancillary buildings is surrounded by gardens, parkland, woodland and agricultural land in an elevated location overlooking Dublin Bay."
The House sits on a huge site of 84 acres which are largely wooded but almost half the grounds are laid out in superb gardens running to the foothills of the Dublin mountains.
Fernhill House has its origins in 1723 with the Darley family and then two generations of the Walkers.
Prior to Mrs Walker’s death, who was in her 90s when she died in 2010, both the House and Gardens had already been sale contracted to a developer before being flipped on to another – David Arnold, who acquired the estate for a sum variously reported at €40m and €45m 10 years ago.
There were reports at the time of purchase that Mr Arnold, a serial developer, had no plans whatsoever to develop the land and that he had intended keeping the gardens open to the public.
There had also been speculation that Mr Arnold had hoped to "trade" the historic estate and public gardens – closed in the years since NAMA took over – for some council land to develop elsewhere.
By late 2009, just months before Mrs Walkers’ death, Mr Arnold went ahead and proposed a motion to rezone the land for extensive housing and some amenity use.
The motion did not succeed following opposition from many including the then Environment Minister John Gormley and then Council manager Owen Keegan.
Caothairleach of DLRCC added: “This is a fantastic parkland and historical site and is a wonderful amenity to be opened to the public.
"It’s will be fantastic for those living in the area, surrounding counties and indeed the country to have such a treasure.”
With the property market crash the Fernhill Estate was eventually taken over by Nama.
Public submissions to the Council’s plans close on January 31.
In addition to the main House, which requires considerable refurbishment, there are three further residential units in the grounds - a period gate lodge, situated at the main entrance.
A Garden cottage located adjacent to the walled garden which was converted from a small barn into a residential unit, currently occupied on a life tenancy basis by a member of the Walker family, and a modern system built single storey house situated in the old farm yard.
Historic records indicate that the estate gardens and an arboretum were established in the 1860’s, and extended towards the turn of the 19th century with the inclusion of a number of water features, rockeries and a collection of many unusual Rhododendron varieties.
The general design is said to have been strongly influenced by the Irish ‘naturalist’ gardener William Robinson, who spurred the movement.
Published Wednesday 24th March 2017, 14:43, Dublin Live, by