Council's green light for hotel expansion is welcomed as boost to south Down tourism
A well-known Co Down hotel has received planning approval for a major redevelopment which could double its workforce.
The Millbrook Lodge, on the outskirts of Ballynahinch, is to add 24 new bedrooms, plus a 16,000 sq ft spa and conference centre. The hotel, owned by the Maguire family, has recently undergone some internal refurbishment, including an upgrade of the dining area.
The imposing Victorian property is regarded as a landmark on the main road from Belfast to Newcastle and sits on a six acre site. It dates back the 1800s and was once a Church of Ireland rectory. The hotel is a popular wedding venue and hosts conferences and country music shows.
The expansion of the Millbrook will increase the number of bedrooms from 16 up to 40, and the owners hope to take on up to 75 additional full and part-time staff. The proposed scheme was given planning approval last week by Newry, Mourne and Down District Council.
“I’m delighted that this major investment is going ahead,” councillor Garth Craig.
“It’s great news for the local area and for tourism development in south Down. The owners have very ambitious plans, with new accommodation, function facilities and a very impressive spa. It certainly improves the facilities currently on offer and fits in very well with the council’s main priority of increasing tourism in the area.
“An expansion of hotel accommodation is very much needed as Ballynahinch is the gateway to the Mournes and Slieve Croob. There are so many outstanding attractions in the Mournes and Slieve Croob areas and we want to do all we can to encourage people to visit and stay.”
The investment could pay off for the hotel’s owners if the green light is finally given to the long-awaited £50m Ballynahinch bypass. A public inquiry was held earlier this year, with hearings taking place at the Millbrook Lodge. A report is currently being drafted for the Infrastructure Minister Chris Hazzard, who is a South Down MLA.
“The go-ahead for the bypass would be a real game changer for south Down,” said Cllr Craig. “It’s been in the pipeline for more than 20 years and it’s badly needed.
“Traffic congestion can be very bad in Ballynahinch and I think it puts some people from visiting the area. Infrastructure is key to tourism and economic development in south Down and I’m very hopeful that the A24 bypass will get approval.”