The owners of Lissadell House in Co Sligo have announced that they are closing the estate from next Monday and letting go 11 staff.

The decision to close the estate follows a resolution by Sligo County Council last month to amend the County Development Plan to include a provision for the preservation of the public rights of way along routes through the estate.

The owners say this move by the council creates uncertainty about the future of Lissadell and that no property could be operated on the basis of uncontrolled access.

According to the owners, Edward Walsh and Constance Cassidy, no public rights of way exist over the property and at the time they took it over in December 2003, there was no suggestion by the council that the internal roads or paths were subject to any rights of way.

Soon after purchasing the estate from Sir Josslyn Gore-Booth, the family closed a road leading to the front of the house.

The family say this road is not a public road and it was closed for safety reasons relating to their seven children.

However, the public can drive through the estate on another road and can also walk through the estate and access Lissadell beach.

In a statement Mr Walsh and Ms Cassidy said: 'The council have for their own reasons now seen fit to raise this issue after five years during which they have poured enormous amounts of time, effort, energy and money into the restoration of the house, gardens and grounds and making Lissadell a focal point for tourism in the northwest.'

Visitor numbers to Lissadell have grown from 4,000 to 40,000 annually and the estate employs about 23 people, as well as providing ancillary employment in maintenance and ongoing projects.

A Constance Markiewicz Exhibition area, an art gallery, shop and coffee shop have all been added to the estate and the old Victorian gardens have been restored.

However, the family now say that they action of Sligo County Council now makes it impossible to operate Lissadell either as a historic house or a private home for reasons of public health and safety, insurance and security for the family and visitors to Lissadell.

They said: 'No property whatsoever, let alone a large tourist facility, could be operated on the basis of unregulated, uncontrolled and unfettered access.'

The family say they regret the adverse economic repercussions of their decision to close, which they say has been forced on them by the actions of Sligo County Council.

They will meet all existing commitments to their customers and will continue with ongoing maintenance to the estate, but will not embark on any further projects.