Belfast Telegraph

Challenge to planning permission for £20m causeway hotel 'preposterous', court told

An artist’s impression of how the hotel complex will look once completed
An artist’s impression of how the hotel complex will look once completed

By Alan Erwin

A challenge to the validity of planning permission for a new £20 million hotel and leisure resort is "preposterous", the High Court heard today.

Lawyers for Causeway Coast and Glens Borough Council also defended a right-of-way at the site near Portstewart, Co Derry being sold to the developer for £1.

A judge was told an independent expert backed the valuation carried out on behalf of estate agents Philip Tweedie and Company as correct.

Referring to press reports about the access route being separately assessed as worth more, Stewart Beattie QC said the issue had raised concerns within the firm.

Based on the independent analysis, counsel stressed: "Mr Tweedie's valuation (is regarded) as entirely sound.

"It's regrettable that has not found its way yet beyond the confines of those four walls." 

North Antrim MLA Jim Allister and a neighbour are seeking to judicially review the decision to give the go-ahead to the proposed complex close to their homes.

Plans include a 120-bedroom four-star hotel, spa, holiday cottages, conference facilities and restaurant being built on the Ballyreagh Road, beside the North West 200 paddock.

Permission was first given in June 2017, but withdrawn after Mr Allister initially threatened legal action.

The TUV leader recommenced proceedings when Council representatives passed the planning application for a second time last year.

TUV leader Jim Allister
TUV leader Jim Allister

His legal team claim the environmental screening process for the proposed coastal location was flawed.

They also contend that the Council used the wrong criteria, and should have considered the application under a policy for a larger-scale tourism attraction.

During the case lawyers for Mr Allister argued that the development scheme would never have got off the ground without the right-of-way, or easement, sold for £1.

They further alleged that pressure was applied at a high level within the council to ensure approval for a construction project regarded as a strategic priority.

But the local authority's barrister launched a staunch defence of its actions, insisting there was nothing to suggest any of its members were coerced.

Dealing with the easement granted in 2016, Mr Beattie submitted that it was "completely remarkable" to seek to quash building consent on grounds advanced.

He said there had been a "relentless excoriation" of planning officers within the council, arguing that their behaviour was the antithesis of anyone acting under pressure or direction.

Counsel insisted: "The notion the court could quash the decision on the grounds of a valid, signed, sealed and delivered contract with the notice party in this case is frankly preposterous."

The case continues.

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