£8.3m hotel near Game of Thrones location in Northern Ireland gets go-ahead
A former hotel in Co Down looks set to be revived after planning officials signed off on proposals to build a new 51-bedroom resort on the site.
Up to 70 hospitality jobs are expected to be created by the new four-star Inch Abbey Hotel, Downpatrick, which takes its name from the nearby monastic ruins.
Dozens more people are expected to be employed during the 18-month construction phase.
The Abbey on the River Quoile, just north of Downpatrick, was a film location for Game Of Thrones and now regularly features on tourist trails for fans of the series.
An application by a Co Down business family for the site of the now demolished Abbey Lodge hotel on the Belfast Road has been recommended for approval by planners at Newry, Mourne and Down District Council.
Subject to ratification by the council week, it will pave the way for the development of the new four-star hotel complete with a leisure centre, swimming pool, health spa, conference facilities, function suite, bars and a restaurant.
Industry monitor Construction Information Services has valued the project at £8.3m.
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The company behind the plan, Inch Abbey Holdings Ltd, is owned by Sean and Dympna Morrison, who run grocery stores in Ballynahinch and Saintfield.
Their plans to develop the site come a decade on from a previous bid by Co Down developer John Miskelly.
The Ballynahinch businessman, who was once linked to a potential takeover of Liverpool Football Club, was behind a £14m attempt to develop the St Patrick's Abbey Hotel at the location.
The 80-bedroom resort was set to be the second hotel venture by Mr Miskelly.
In 2008 he bought the Ten Square Hotel in the centre of Belfast from Galgorm Resort owners Paul and Nick Hill.
But the developer had several of his business loans taken over by US investment fund Cerberus when it acquired Nama's Northern Ireland property portfolio in 2014. Ten Square and the Abbey Lodge site were both later sold.
The new Inch Abbey Hotel has been designed by Mullarkey Pederson Architects, the company behind the award winning Bishop's Gate Hotel in Londonderry.
In a report supporting their plan, the developers said the new hotel will provide "a visually attractive and dynamic addition" to the Downpatrick area.
They also cited recent tourism strategies, which identified an inadequate number of accommodation and hospitality venues in Downpatrick, reducing the potential for tourism growth.
"The hotel's public spaces will provide a much needed entertainment and hospitality hub for the visitors of the hotel and also for the local residents," they said.
The recommendation to approve the project is due to go before Newry, Mourne and Down District Council's planning committee on March 13.