Northern Ireland police station could soon host tourists
Family hoping to turn old building into apartments
A Co Tyrone family has launched a bid to turn a former village police station into a new tourism destination.
The Stewarts, who run a dairy farm in Stewartstown, have submitted a planning application to transform the old security installation into four new self-catering apartments.
The family bought the old station in 2009, during a sell-off of the former police estate by the Policing Board.
Like many rural villages, Stewartstown's station became surplus to requirements as the PSNI adjusted to cutbacks.
It was eventually shut for good in January, 2007.
It was last targeted by dissident republicans in July 2000, when an early-morning car bomb damaged the building. No one was hurt in the Real IRA blast, but the windows of nearby homes and businesses were blown out.
The new plans for the site would see the security wall removed, with the main building retained. The majority of the works are planned for inside the large station house.
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Susan Stewart said despite owning the building for almost a decade, they only developed the tourism plan last spring.
"We didn't have a family member who wanted to live in it or make it into a home, so we thought that this would be the best thing for us, to try and see if it could work," she said.
"We wanted to do something with the building, because it's quite large and we wanted to improve the entrance to the village by taking down the wall."
The tourism business is a new departure for the family, who manage a dairy herd from Crewe Hill Farm in the village.
Ms Stewart's son, Henry, is the fifth generation of the family to take up the business. "We've been knocking about quite a while," she laughed.
She said the family had budgeted a minimum of £50,000 for the project, with the goal of opening next summer, subject to planning permission.
"The age of the building tells us without doubt that there is asbestos in there. That will have to be removed, as well as new insulation, soundproofing, new wiring and plumbing. The building itself is in good condition, but all of those things will have to be redone."
Located between Cookstown and Dungannon, and just four miles from the Lough Neagh shore, Ms Stewart said the Co Tyrone village's central location will work to their advantage.
"Just half a mile down the road is the geographical centre of Northern Ireland," she said.
"We're an hour from everywhere. We know people in the area who have had no difficulty in getting b eds filled.
"It's a completely new departure for us. Some days I get up and think this will be great, others I get up and think, 'What are we doing?'
"We're looking on the bright side," she said. "People will be glad to see the wall coming down and it'll be a great enhancement to the village."
Five attractions near Stewartstown
Lough Neagh: Stewartstown is just four miles from the shores of the largest lake in the British Isles. A haven for wildlife and home to a wealth of flora and fauna, the lough offers a tranquil atmosphere and unspoilt scenery.
Tullyhogue Fort: Embodying scenery and history, Tullyhogue Fort is just a few miles from Stewartstown. Once a site where ancient kings of Ulster were crowned, recent digs dates its use back 700 years.
The Hill of the O'Neill: Sitting on top of the town of Dungannon, the Hill of the O'Neill and Ranfurly House marks the ancient capital of Ulster. Once a stronghold of the famous O'Neill dynasty, it offers a view of all nine counties of Ulster.
Davagh Forest: Located in the foothills of the Sperrins, Davagh Forest has become a popular destination for its 16km of bike trails. Plans are also in development for a £900,000 dark sky museum and glamping pods in the forest, taking advantage of the site's world class star gazing potential.
Lake Torrent: Still under construction, the new world class race track at Lake Torrent in Coalisland is just a few miles from Stewartstown. The £30m project has been tipped as a future venue for the World Superbike Championship.