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Hotels boss to focus on Belfast if delays continue at Portrush site

Rajesh Rana

Northern Ireland hotels boss Rajesh Rana has hit out at delays to a proposed new venue in Portrush, saying he will instead focus on a £19m project in Belfast if no progress is made.

The Andras House chief said he is soon to sign up an international apart-hotel brand for the site at 29 to 33 Bedford Street in Belfast, between Wetherspoon's bar and Pizza Express.

A pre-application consultation was held into the project last year.

But Mr Rana said that project would be the focus of company investment efforts if there was no progress on the proposed Portrush hotel, which is being considered by the Department for Infrastructure (DfI). He said the project at Main Street/Atlantic Avenue was worth £6.6m and would create 48 jobs during construction and 41 permanent jobs when it opens.

His firm first applied for planning permission for an 87-bedroomed boutique hotel in Portrush three years ago. The building was then listed by the Department for Communities, leading to the scheme being redesigned and resubmitted for planning approval.

The revised scheme was approved a year ago by the Causeway Coast and Glens Council.

The application was then taken up by the Department for Infrastructure, which has been re-examining the proposals for the past 12 months.

Mr Rana said the delay meant hotel had now moved down its list of priorities. He added: "Our Portrush plan isn't dead yet, but it will be in jeopardy if we don't get planning permission."

He said that without progress in the near future, the site might not be ready in time for the next Open golf event, which may take place in Portrush again in 2024.

"In that case I probably would seriously consider putting the whole thing on ice, which would be a disaster for us and the North Coast."

A DfI spokesman said the decision to 'call in' the planning applications was "not taken lightly" as "this is a power designed to be used by exception".

"The Londonderry Hotel scheme was considered to be an exceptional case due to concerns around the significant gaps in the council's assessment of the application of regional planning policy, particularly in relation to built heritage, and of its rationale and justification for its decision to overturn the advice of its professional planning officers.

"The applications were subsequently 'called in' in view of the proposed development's potential conflict with regional built heritage planning policies and with key aspects of the Strategic Planning Policy Statement in terms of sustainable development. It was considered that the regional issues raised would benefit from further scrutiny."

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