Belfast Telegraph

Grieving sister welcomes plan to redevelop building where brother Christopher Connor died

By Victoria Leonard

Relatives of a young man who lost his life at a derelict Portstewart hotel have welcomed the site’s redevelopment, saying they are glad no other family will have to suffer as they have.

Christopher Connor (20) was found dead at the disused Montague Arms Hotel after a pre-Christmas night out five years ago.

The body of the young man, who was set to join the Army, was discovered by his cousin two days after he went missing following a night out at a nearby nightclub.

His distraught family subsequently condemned the “dangerous” condition of the building, which they feared presented a safety risk to the public.

Now, a new owner has secured planning permission for a mixed-use redevelopment, comprising a cafe, retail units and 24 apartments.

The hotel has already been demolished and diggers are on site preparing the ground for the forthcoming work.

Christopher’s sister, Laura, said: “My mum and dad haven’t been to Portstewart since Christopher passed away, and I have only been back on the anniversary of his death. I would welcome the fact that no other family will have to go through what we are going through.

“Christopher hit the back of his head — it (the blow) would have killed him instantly. That site posed a risk to kids — it was unsafe and was lying open, and it took Christopher’s death to have it boarded up. There doesn’t seem to be any accountability for derelict buildings.”

Laura explained that her parents, who live in nearby Coleraine, would never return to Portstewart because their grief was still so raw. “Christopher loved Christmas and every year it is very difficult,” she said. “Every year we do fundraisers on his birthday and at Christmas, and we have raised a couple of thousand pounds for charity to keep his memory alive.

“He loved life, but it was cut short. Now he will never know his two nieces, Olivia and Molly-Chrissy, who was named for him.”

The site’s new owner, Richard Orr of BKS Developments Ltd,  said making the area safe was of “paramount” importance.

“It really was so tragic what happened to Christopher, especially at that time of year,” Mr Orr added. “I took ownership of the site in March 2015, a few years after Christopher’s death, and I believe it’s in everyone’s interests to get that site redeveloped.

“This development will represent a significant investment in the promenade, and I would like to have it constructed in time for The Open golf tournament (in July 2019) to boost the economic benefit to Portstewart.”

The Mayor of Causeway Coast and Glens Borough Council, Alderman Maura Hickey, also welcomed the plans.

“Christopher’s death was a terrible, terrible incident and the site shouldn’t have been allowed to get into disrepair,” she said.

“We see that there is potential for development and it’s very sensitive.”

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