£100 million golf resort to be built near Giant's Causeway
Proposals to build a £100 million golf complex on Northern Ireland's beautiful north coast have been given the green light.
More than 10 years after the first planning application was lodged, the developers have overcome National Trust resistance to begin work on the site close to the famous Giant's Causeway in County Antrim.
The new Bushmills Dunes Golf Resort & Spa will include a championship links, a five-star 120-bedroom hotel and 75 villas. The project is expected to create at least 360 jobs.
It is hoped the course and accommodation ready by the summer of 2014.
Announcing the decision earlier today, Northern Ireland Environment minister Alex Attwood said: "I have carefully considered both sides of the argument, but given the boost to tourism and the economy that the proposal will bring, I have decided to grant planning permission."
The investment is headed by a New York-based Northern Ireland management expert and scientist Dr Alistair Hanna, 67, originally from Holywood, Co Down - the home town of US Open golf champion Rory McIlroy.
British Open champion Darren Clarke lives a few miles from the proposed course, close to neighbouring Royal Portrush golf club where the Irish Open will take place this summer.
Graeme McDowell, a friend of both players and winner of the US Open in 2010, also comes from Portrush.
The first planning application was submitted in 2001 and then renewed six years later.
There was considerable opposition by the National Trust, owners of nearby Giant's Causeway, a Unesco world heritage site where a new visitors' centre is due to open this summer after another lengthy planning process.
A National Trust spokesperson said: "As a conservation charity the trust's over-riding focus is the protection of the environment and landscape within the distinctive setting of Northern Ireland's only World Heritage Site.
"We believe this farmland and dune system is the wrong place for such a massive development.
"The National Trust will carefully review the details of the planning decision and consider its options."