Belfast Telegraph

£14m hotel plan brings 135 jobs to Downpatrick

By Lindsay Fergus

Work is to commence on a new £14m hotel on the outskirts of Downpatrick in January, it has emerged.

The 80-bedroom three star hotel on the site of the former Abbey Lodge Hotel will create 135 jobs.

The St Patrick’s Abbey Hotel on the Belfast Road will reflect the town and surrounding area’s close links with St Patrick, the patron saint of Ireland.

It is the second hotel venture for local man John Miskelly who also owns the luxury Ten Square hotel in Belfast.

Ten Square general manager Kevin Smyth, who is on the new hotel’s development team, believes there is a gap in the market for such a venture in the historic town.

He said: “Each year more than 125,000 visitors pass through this area and the town’s importance until recently has been neglected. Now, there is a definite regeneration in the area with projects that are attracting new markets, which are in turn boosting the local economy.”

He added: “We identified a need for quality accommodation. This project will be the first superior hotel of its kind in the town and it will encourage visitors to |extend their stay in this area of natural beauty.

“The hotel brings a huge investment and it will create 75 full time hotel jobs as well as 60 construction jobs. The company will also source local supplies.

“At a time when many are shying away from development, it’s important for us to look positively to the future.”

Doctor Tim Campbell, director of Saint Patrick’s Visitor’s Centre believes that the addition of the new hotel will play a key role in placing Downpatrick back on the map as a social and cultural hub.

He said: “The growing interest in Saint Patrick and Downpatrick in Northern Ireland has become very obvious over the last few years. St Patrick is celebrated throughout the world and it’s time that we celebrated his importance here with a new quality hotel |that is purpose-built for large |numbers of travellers.”

Construction is expected to commence in January 2010 and the hotel is due to open in late spring 2011. The St Patrick’s Abbey hotel will include a 400 seated ballroom, meeting facilities, extensive landscaped gardens and water features.

Social Development Minister, Margaret Ritchie, said: “At a time of economic downturn, this investment will create much needed local employment.

“The hotel site is in an ideal position to serve both the people of Down District and the increasing number of tourists visiting this historic area. There is no doubt that Downpatrick is now on the up.”

lfergus@belfasttelegraph.co.uk

Belfast Telegraph

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