Councillor hit in pocket after plans protest
Published 11/06/2007 | 08:31
Battling against development on the north Antrim coast burned a deep hole in one councillor's pocket.
Coleraine independent representative Christine Alexander was handed a £7,500 bill for damages and costs after she stood in the way of a digger as it cleared the way for a large development on land close to Barry's Amusements on the Portrush seafront.
The incident led to Ms Alexander being sued for trespass and nuisance. She must now stay away from land owned by the property company Seaport Investments Limited, which is run by developer Seymour Sweeney.
The row flared in August 2003, when diggers began by clearing gardens, the ownership of which was disputed. Ms Alexander said they belonged to her constitu- ents and she stood in the bucket of a digger for two hours. Seaport insisted it owned the land.
The West Strand site was popular with dogwalkers, and had been earmarked as an amenity area in the Northern Area Plan.
When news of the plan broke in late 2000, there were almost 300 objections.
The council called for a public inquiry into the proposals, but a sudden motion to rescind it - by the late Ulster Unionist councillor Jim Watt - was carried by 11 votes to nine in April 2001. Planning approval was later granted.
"It was a quite staggering decision. No-one could understand why a piece of amenity land could be built on," Ms Alexander said.
Now, 132 units of high-density housing, worth many millions of pounds, dominate the skyline.
Ms Alexander was left with the £7,500 bill and is now prevented from " entering onto or otherwise interfering with" Seaport's land.
Conservationists are aghast at what happened to her. They say wealthy developers are rarely left out of pocket.
When the Belfast Telegraph asked Mr Sweeney about the dispute, he said: " The case is over and done with and finished."
When we said we understood the case was not finished because the injunction still stood, he said: "I have no comment to make on this matter whatsoever" adding: "If you run a story that is inaccurate then I will have to take action."