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Developers 'hopeful' £20m Merrow Hotel and Spa will be approved after court delay

Jim Allister

Developers of a £20m hotel stopped by a legal challenge from MLA Jim Allister have said they are "hopeful" plans will now be approved after being resubmitted.

Planning permission for the Merrow Hotel and Spa in Portstewart was initially granted by Causeway Coast and Glens Council in June 2017 before being withdrawn when Mr Allister threatened legal action. The plans were halted last summer following a judicial review launched by Mr Allister, who has a house overlooking the site, and another resident, after the council granted permission for a second time in 2018.

They have now been resubmitted, as revealed by the Coleraine Chronicle yesterday, and additional papers have been lodged to allow redetermination of the original application.

The hotel is to include 118 bedrooms, a spa, a pool, gym, demonstration restaurant, a bar/bistro restaurant, cocktail bar, conference and meeting rooms and nine chalets.

Developers said it would create almost 100 jobs and bring a guest spend of around £6m a year.

Vivienne Gilholm, speaking on behalf of the development team, said they were "trying to leave all that behind and stay positive moving forward with it", when asked about the judicial review.

"We'll certainly take the recommendations of the court to re-do any of the areas we have to in terms of protocol and process," she added.

"That is where we're heavily focusing on this time. The public desire for it is there to make it happen. We would be hopeful that consultees come back supportive again with no objections and together with the correct policy then it would go through this time."

Causeway Coast and Glens Borough Council confirmed that it is "currently considering an application for a hotel and spa complex on land south of 120 Ballyreagh Road, Portstewart."

Mr Allister succeeded in court in claims of procedural unfairness, breaches of planning committee protocol, error of law surrounding consultation over access to the site and breach of the Environmental Impact Assessment Regulations.

Mr Allister did not wish to comment.

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