Sheraton Hotels is facing fierce opposition from conservationists in Ireland over the development of a 140-bedroom hotel in a historic estate. The Irish Georgian Society is so incensed that it is lobbying Brussels to deny the scheme £6m in European funding.
The County Kildare house and park is called Carton Demesne and objectors argue that it is one of few old estates to remain intact, and should be preserved by the state. Nevertheless, the project has been approved by Bord F ilte (the Irish tourist board) and the government.
Georgian Society founder Desmond Guinness said Carton was "probably the most important and best-documented landscaped parkland in Ireland", and condemned the development as a "national scandal".
The scheme, for which Sheraton is in partnership with the estate's owner Liam Mallaghan, also includes a conference centre, two golf courses and 80 houses. Planning permission was granted several years ago.
Guinness added: "Such a national treasure should not be left in the hands of commercial developers. It deserves state care and attention of the highest order."
The controversy comes a few months after court challenges led to Hilton abandoning plans for a new hotel near Trinity College, Dublin.
A Sheraton spokeswoman said: "This is a government-backed project. Sheraton has a good track record in restoring historic buildings sensitively. The Palace Hotel in Madrid, for example, has been given museum status by the Spanish government after our investment of $42m."