Andras boss seeks to calm concern over £6.6m Portrush boutique hotel
The man behind a new £6.6m hotel in the centre of Portrush has responded to the concerns aired by dozens of objectors to his plans.
Andras Hotels has submitted a planning application to convert the listed former Londonderry Hotel building into a new boutique resort with 87 bedrooms, along with bar and restaurant.
The group, now led by Rajesh Rana, runs seven hotels in the Belfast area.
The facade on Main Street is listed and will be preserved, while a new extension is planned.
Mr Rana also has ambitions to convert the former bank opposite into holiday apartments.
But the plan has attracted 244 objections. The main areas of contention appear to surround issues over parking and the loss of popular live music venue the Atlantic Live Lounge, which currently rents part of the area identified for the new hotel.
Parking has remained a long-term problem for Portrush, particularly during summer months.
Councillor Norman Hillis, who runs a small department store on Main Street, said there is no easy solution to resolving the town's parking woes.
"There's always been a problem, but it probably only exists for two or three months of the year," said the Ulster Unionist. He added that a multi-storey car park has been one idea mooted, but questioned whether it could be sustained outside the peak summer season.
"Obviously I want to see more development, preferably on the centre of the town. We certainly need the accommodation, but it's a difficult balance," he said.
North coast music fans have also mounted an opposition campaign of sorts. Over the past 15 years the Atlantic Bar and Lounge has built up a reputation as one of Northern Ireland's top live music venues.
While he said he appreciates the value placed on the venue by music fans, Mr Rana said the site is currently under-used.
He said a live music venue would be "incompatible" with a hotel, and said using the building as a bar is "unsustainable in the long-term".
Addressing the parking issue, Mr Rana said the main entrance will be on Atlantic Avenue.
"We will then direct guests to the council car parks that are available in the town to avoid guests parking in residential areas," he explained.
"We are speaking to the council about the parking strategy for the town as a whole, as there is a need for a co-ordinated approach."
He confirmed the hotel won't be available for next year's golf tournament The Open, which takes place at Royal Portrush. But he said it would "provide a lift" to the whole town when it is complete. Andras Hotels this week opened its new Hampton by Hilton Hotel, its seventh in Belfast.