Legal bid to stop £100m golf resort
The National Trust has launched a legal bid to block the development of a £100 million golf resort near the Giant's Causeway on Northern Ireland's north coast.
It is seeking a High Court judicial review challenging the decision by the Department of Environment to give the go-ahead for the project on land outside the village of Bushmills, Co Antrim.
Work on the course and hotel development two miles from the Causeway, a World Heritage Site and Northern Ireland's number one tourist attraction where a new visitors' centre is opening next month, had been due to get under way before the end of the year.
Conservation groups bitterly opposed the project. It took the best part of a decade before the Northern Ireland Environment Minister Alex Attwood announced last February that work could begin on the Bushmills Dunes golf resort and spa creating 360 direct jobs and an estimated 300 ancillary jobs.
With 100,000 fans expected on the North Coast later this month for the Irish Open golf championship at Royal Portrush, it is understood the Northern Ireland Executive is furious with the trust's decision to go to court - especially after it made a £9 million grant towards the new visitors' centre which opens on July 3.
The golf investment project, headed up by a US-based Northern Ireland businessman Dr Alistair Hanna, involves a championship course as well as a five star 120-bedroom hotel and golf lodges.
A National Trust statement said: "The National Trust has consistently opposed the planning application and in particular has expressed concern that the entire development is on land which is zoned in the draft Northern Area Plan as the distinctive landscape setting of the World Heritage site in which no development should take place."
The legal challenge has outraged the power-sharing executive in Belfast as well as the North Antrim MP Ian Paisley Jnr, who accused the trust of being spiteful and introducing delaying tactics. He said: "This is the same organisation who have a tourist centre paid for by public money on a World Heritage Site, a hotel on a World Heritage Site and a money spinning car park on the same World Heritage Site."
Later Mr Paisley said the National Trust chairman in Northern Ireland Roy Bailie should consider his position, adding: "This is Northern Ireland's big year - our place our time. In less than three weeks the biggest golfing event to happen on the island in the past 50 years is coming to Portrush and the National Trust are making it clear they have no time or place for anyone else."