Belfast Telegraph

Co Down hotel gets green light after 1,700 objections

By Heather McGarrigle and Clare Weir

A planning application for a hotel in Co Down which attracted over 1,700 objections has now been approved by the Department of the Environment.

The proposed 60-bedroom inn on Knockbracken Road in Carryduff drew objections about traffic and safety, as well as noise and light pollution and other environmental issues, including wildlife on-site.

Developers Merit Investment and Properties, a subsidiary of Conway Group in Magherafelt, lodged the plans in March 2009 and have agreed a deal with Whitbread, owners of the Premier Inn chain.

Whitbread will operate the new Carryduff complex, which could create up to 60 full and part time jobs as well as work for the construction sector.

It is not yet known when work will begin on the site or how long construction will take. But the new hotel, which will include a restaurant, will be in direct competition with the nearby long-established Ivanhoe Hotel. |No-one from Conway Group was available for comment.

Michael Williamson, director of hotel, tourism, and leisure consulting at ASM Horwath, said the developers will have made careful plans about the opening.

“At first glance it may seem like a very risky plan to begin building a hotel in the current climate, but by the time the project is completed and signed off, the market may well have improved,” he said.

“Premier Inn caters to a specific market with very competitive prices and while there is not much in the way of passing business traffic during the week, the restaurant will no doubt do well and attract more local families.

“If the plan was accommodation alone, one could seriously question the need for a new hotel in this area in the current climate.

“At best it will provide a pick-up for the local economy and at worst will split trade in the town in two with its proximity to the Ivanhoe.”

Castlereagh councillor Geraldine Rice of the Alliance Party said she had opposed the scheme, and said there was not enough demand in the area for two hotels.

“While all jobs and development must be welcomed, I would be concerned if these jobs will be lost a few months down the line or if this development would have an impact on the jobs of those at more long-established premises,” she said. “I was an objector for a number of reasons — there are plenty of businesses in the area which are already suffering and it would be awful to see them squeezed out of business or for this new venture to fail in a relatively short space of time.

“There are also concerns about traffic coming on and off a very busy road and there are already a high number of accidents and fatalities.”

SDLP councillor Brian Hanvey said he supported the plans.

“There is nothing wrong with a bit of healthy competition and this scheme will bring more benefits to the wider area, it will be a boost to employment and inward investment,” he said.

The Conway Group is also behind contentious plans for a retail complex in Magheraflet, one of the last towns in Northern Ireland not to be served by a major supermarket chain like Asda, Sainsbury or Tesco.

Belfast Telegraph