Business chiefs urge council not to refuse Portrush hotel plan
Business leaders have united to urge a Causeway Coast and Glens Council committee to approve a £6.6m hotel project in Portrush, which has been recommended for refusal.
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Glyn Roberts of Retail NI, Janice Gault of the Northern Ireland Hotels Federation and Colin Neill of Hospitality Ulster joined forces to support hotelier Rajesh Rana's plans for an 87-room project at the former Londonderry Hotel site.
Collectively they have voiced their reasons why the council should approve the project, including its projected contribution to the economy of £1.4m annually.
The Federation of Small Businesses, Ulster Stores Limited and the Causeway Chamber of Commerce have also lent their support ahead of a planning meeting tomorrow, which is set to spell the fate for plans for the Grade B listed property.
The site on Main Street has been recommended for refusal as the Historic Environment Division said it had concerns that demolition could harm the "historical understanding" of the site and the "historic streetscape character" of the town centre.
However, Mr Rana's claimed the hotel plans have been dramatically revised to ensure that it will "reflect and contribute to the vibrancy of the town".
If approved, the project is expected to provide 48 jobs during construction and an additional 41 new jobs when the hotel opens, which could be in 2021.
Director of Andras Hotels, which also operates the Crowne Plaza at Shaw's Bridge among other hotels, Mr Rana said: "We hope councillors will recognise the tourism benefit and economic investment we are seeking to deliver for the town and wider area and approve the application."
Backing the hotelier, Mr Roberts, chief executive of Retail NI, said Andras Hotels have benefited other areas, adding: "Their willingness to make a significant investment in Portrush should be welcomed and encouraged."
And Ms Gault, chief executive of the NI Hotels Federation, said the project will "help increase appeal of the area".
"Its location in the centre of Portrush will also see the proposed hotel form an integral part of the town's regeneration," she said.
Roger Pollen of the Federation of Small Businesses said: "We wish to register our support for this proposed development and encourage Causeway Coast and Glens Borough Council to respond affirmatively to the application.
"The development of a sensitively designed building will support the positive change underway in this area.
"Developments of this sort are important, not only because of their primary economic role, but also because of the positive associated impact they have on supply chains and wider economy."
Mr Neill, chief executive of Hospitality Ulster, added: "This development is without doubt a very welcome and much needed addition to the accommodation and visitor offering.
"The proposed scheme, which has been amended to ensure the sympathetic relationship to the listed building status of part of the site, provides an opportunity for Portrush to capitalise on the increased demand for accommodation.
"I therefore give this project our full support and would encourage a prompt and positive response to the planning application."
Anthony Newman, president of Causeway Chamber of Commerce, described Mr Rana's revised proposals as "much needed accommodation and hospitality" in the area, adding: "We believe the high-quality design proposed for the site will help regenerate the town centre by turning this site into a vibrant part of Portrush.
"The site is a central and accessible location perfect for hospitality-focused development. Its delivery will generate new business and support those already in the area."
Meanwhile, Neville Moore, managing director of the Whitehouse in Portrush, said the plans will "significantly enhance the economic activity of the wider town centre area".
"This site has been semi-derelict for many years and the opportunity to see it returned to use as an 87-bedroom boutique hotel of this quality is very exciting," he added.