£25m Fermanagh resort plan is rejected by civil servants using powers under Bradley's new law
Developers behind a £25m tourist resort in Co Fermanagh have expressed disappointment after their bid was rejected by the Department for Infrastructure (DfI).
The proposed Catalina Bay Resort included a 83-bedroom hotel, 68 self-catering apartments and 10 holiday lodges. The site is beside a new 100-berth marina on the eastern shore of Lower Lough Erne, a few miles from Enniskillen.
The 15-hectare site was used as an RAF base for its Catalina sea planes during the Second World War, and later as a caravan park. The area's war heritage had featured as part of the proposal by a small group of developers.
The plan, which emerged over 10 years ago, led to a three-year pre-application discussion period before an application was formally submitted in 2011, falling under the remit of DfI's strategic planning division.
But it attracted a number of objectors, including Fermanagh and Omagh District Council.
The council questioned whether there was sufficient demand for the tourism proposal, which centred around a site next to the Manor House Hotel and across the water from the Lough Erne Resort.
But the developers projected that their resort would spend up to £1.5m a year on goods and services and generated £3m annually from tourists. They said 140 full-time jobs would be created, along with 98 indirect roles, with up to 700 people employed during the construction phase.
DfI eventually issued a notice of opinion to refuse planning permission in November 2017.
The applicants initially considered taking their case to the Planning Appeals Commission, however in June 2018 they opted against the costly exercise.
The DfI confirmed yesterday that the resort was among the regionally significant planning applications put on ice in light of the July High Court ruling in the Arc21 incinerator case.
DfI said the introduction of new legislation in November eventually reopened the door for civil servants to act over the resort.
"Following careful consideration of the Act and the associated guidance issued by the Secretary of State, a senior officer of the department took (with the approval of the permanent secretary) the decision to issue a decision notice refusing planning permission. The decision notice was issued on December 20, 2018," it said.
In a statement yesterday, the applicants expressed their disappointment.
"After being involved in the process for so long, we are disappointed by the outcome. We are still reviewing the decision, but it is our belief that the site holds the potential to make an important contribution to the tourism industry in Co Fermanagh," they said.
In its report, DfI concluded that current planning policy did not permit for a project on such a scale. It also argued that the resort would be unlikely to have a positive impact on Fermanagh's tourism industry, surmising "it would detract from the assets it seeks to exploit" and "not represent a sustainable and high quality tourism development".