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£60m golf and luxury hotel resort for Northern Ireland town gets green light

By Rachel Martin

Published 13/09/2016

The popular Hillsborough forest park will benefit from the redevelopment
The popular Hillsborough forest park will benefit from the redevelopment

A £60m golf resort has been given the go-ahead in Northern Ireland just days after plans for a £16m visitor centre were also given approval.

The plans, which were first proposed in 2003 by developer Wilmar Ltd, include the development of a championship standard parkland golf course, a luxury hotel and holiday apartments in Hillsborough.

Once complete, it’s thought that the complex will employ between 150 to 400 people.

Alongside the development of a visitor centre at Hillsborough Castle the area will begin to draw in tourists.

Permission was granted for new visitor and estate facilities including restoration of existing stableyard and historic gardens at the castle.

The Walled Garden will be restored and a section of the grounds known as the Lost Garden, which had become overgrown and difficult to access, will also be returned to its former glory.

Inside the castle itself, visitors will be able to explore the State Rooms, which will be newly presented, opened up and interpreted to provide an insight into their use as both a royal residence and as a venue for entertaining and political discussion.

Work will also be carried out to the estate’s operating base, upper forecourt and railings, marquee base, carriage drive, Prince’s charities buildings, Moss walk, conservation stores and workshops and yew tree walk.

It’s expected the castle could welcome up to 200,000 visitors a year by 2019, the same year the hotel is planned to open.

The project will be led by Historic Royal Palaces, the charity responsible for the Tower of London, Hampton Court Palace, the Banqueting House, Kensington Palace and Kew Palace. It’s expected the organisation will receive £5m for its work in Hillsborough.

DUP councillor Nathan Anderson said the applications were co-incidental but were well-matched. “It’s an area where we recognise there needs to be more focus on tourism. Despite the fact we have so much to offer its something which is overlooked in the area. More hotels are desperately needed in the area,” he said.

“The two developments will help each other in that people who want to visit the Royal Palace will need somewhere to stay and people who want to come to the area to play golf might also want to visit Hillsborough Castle.”

DUP MLA Edwin Poots spoke on behalf of the golf resort’s developer at the planning meeting.

Speaking to Belfast Telegraph, he said: “It’ll take people from visiting Hillsborough for two to three hours to two to three days.

“There will be a lot for people to do at the hotel with the golf course and spa facilities. And then there’s the Royal Palace, the fort, Down Royal racecourse, the Eikon exhibition centre, quality shopping at Sprucefield in the area and Belfast within a 20 minute drive.

“It’s a beautiful village with the lake and, of course, the Georgian street.

“The hotel will have more than 100 bedrooms and will cater for the high-end of the market, so will attract visitors with a high-level spend.

“It will also be a large boost in terms of jobs with conservative estimates of between 150 to 400 full time positions, but we would believe that there are going to be at least a couple of hundred jobs.”

It follows disappointment after planning permission was refused for Northern Ireland’s first John Lewis branch which was ear-marked for Sprucefield Shopping Centre. But Mr Poots said he expected the UK retail giant could be back on the agenda soon.

Belfast Telegraph

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