New hotel and conference facility for Hillsborough gets the go-ahead
The first phase of a four-star hotel and conference centre in Hillsborough has been approved and will create 20 jobs.
Invest In Sport Ltd, a sports consultancy company set up in 2014 by Mechelle Law, is behind the "significant" scheme.
It will feature two conference rooms, 16 bedrooms, a cafe/restaurant and a self-catering semi-detached property at Ballynahinch Road. It will also have 33 parking spaces.
And, if approved, the company will add a sporting element to the project in a second phase, including a 3G pitch.
Ms Law, who has a background in sports finance and previously held the role of finance manager at the Irish Football Association, said: "We created this because there is very little accommodation in Lisburn, with the exception of the Premier Inn.
"We see the cafe being opened all the time for anyone to come in and we hope that the second phase will accommodate residential visits from sporting teams here and abroad, and also serve as a community initiative."
Ms Law has been working closely with Lisburn and Castlereagh City Council and The Hillsborough Castle Project while in the planning stages.
As part of Invest In Sport she hosts regular pre-season training schemes with sporting teams here, including Ulster Rugby. She has hopes that the site could offer sporting and school groups recreational trips with everything available on one site.
And while she wouldn't reveal the cost of the project, she said it would create 20 jobs in its first phase and cover a space of 10,000sq ft.
Original plans for the project were submitted in 2016 and included five buildings, but in order to deliver on budget changes were made to streamline the product and services into one building.
Ms Law said the tender for the project would go out this summer.
Johann Muldoon, managing director of Manor Architects, Moneymore, designed the plans and secured planning approval for the project.
Ms Muldoon is renowned in the architecture world, having received an MBE in 2017, as well as winning the best woman architect prize at the Women in Construction and Engineering Awards.
Invest In Sport has three employees and counts the Northern Ireland Football League as one of its clients.
It also acts as an outsourcing company for payroll and other business services.