Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 2 October 2014

Editor's Viewpoint: Golf resort plan's time has come

No-one can ever accuse Northern Ireland's planners of reaching decisions at breakneck speed. More than 10 years after the initial application the go-ahead is today to be given to a luxury £100m golf resort close to the Giant's Causeway.

The championship standard course, five-star hotel and villas could create 360 jobs but the project has been strongly opposed by the National Trust which fears it could spoil the area.

As keepers of our heritage, especially the Giant's Causeway, a UNESCO World Heritage site, the Trust was merely fulfilling its duty in trying to keep the countryside as unspoiled as possible.

That is always a delicate balancing act. While environmental concerns must be seriously considered and every effort made to ensure that the countryside is protected, development cannot be totally ruled out.

In today's austere times it is almost impossible to thumb one's nose at a project of this value and one which promises more benefits in future years.

A first-class hotel and another championship standard course would build on the area's reputation and make it a mecca for high value tourism.

With Northern Ireland boasting three Major tournament winners in the last couple of years, the province is already being heavily promoted to the golf tourism market.

A development of the kind mooted would only enhance the package on offer. It is an idea whose time appears to have come.

Yet it is a development which must be undertaken sensitively. The Giant's Causeway is one of the province's top tourism attractions and nothing can be allowed to diminish its natural appeal.

If any development did cause environmental damage then that would be disastrous, as one of the reasons for visiting the area would have gone.

This was one time when the planners were justified in having a long hard look at the proposed project, although taking a decade to make up their minds was being a tad too mindful of their duty of care.

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