An application to demolish the Greenvale Hotel is linked to a new protected tourist designation being proposed for the site by Mid Ulster District Council, it has emerged.
Cookstown hotelier Michael McElhatton submitted a planning application to the council on Tuesday, seeking permission to bulldoze the venue and replace it with luxury homes.
Architectural drawings provided to planning officials show proposals for five two-storey 2,700 sq ft houses, each with a stand-alone garage, surrounded by walls and accessed by an electric gate.
It comes three months after Lauren Bullock (17), Morgan Barnard (17) and 16-year-old Connor Currie, lost their lives outside the hotel’s nightclub on the night of March 17.
But in a statement issued yesterday through a third party, Mr McElhatton claimed that the hotel will remain open for the foreseeable. He is currently restricted to hosting only weddings and private functions at the hotel ahead of a full entertainment license renewal in October.
Sources familiar with the application have said the planning application is linked to ongoing wrangling between hotels in Cookstown and the Mid Ulster District Council.
Councillors have recently passed a new development plan for the local authority, which seeks to protect existing tourism sites against future development.
The council’s Local Development Strategy 2030 includes a draft tourism policy, which specifically names the Greenvale Hotel and the neighbouring Glenavon Hotel in Cookstown. It proposes that both hotels are designated as important tourist accommodation in Cookstown and protected from future re-development or changes to other uses.
The Mid Ulster District Council said yesterday that consultation on its draft development strategy was completed in April.
“This is, however, only the first stage in the process and the final draft plan will be subjected to a public independent examination and be finalised for adoption by 2020-2021,” said a spokesperson.
It’s understood that both hotels are unhappy with the proposed change in policy.
Mr McElhatton’s new planning application is believed to be part of a move to keep the door open to the future redevelopment of his site on the Drum Road in Cookstown.
If successful, any planning approval would likely come with a five-year time limit, requiring the hotel owner to either act on the application or submit a fresh bid at the cost of several thousand pounds.
The hotel owner said yesterday that he did not wish to make any further comment about his reasons for the application.
A statement issued on his behalf said: “There are no immediate plans for a change of use of the premises which will continue with its current operations for the foreseeable future.”
A police investigation into the deaths of the three teenagers remains ongoing.
Mr McElhatton was arrested on suspicion of manslaughter following the tragedy, before being released on police bail. A second man was also arrested.
The reaction of the PSNI to the incident is also now subject to an investigation by the Police Ombudsman.