Belfast Telegraph

Councillor tells court of hotel planning battle recordings of conversations

Legal challenge: Jim Allister
Legal challenge: Jim Allister

A Northern Ireland councillor has "hours" of recorded conversations with officials connected to a legal challenge over a planned £20m hotel and leisure complex on the north coast, he told the High Court today.

Padraig McShane claimed he used an electronic device to tape the encounters.

Causeway Coast and Glens Borough Council is now seeking an order for him to hand over any recordings or other relevant material.

A judge is expected to rule on its application for disclosure next week.

The intervention by Mr McShane has already led to the challenge mounted by TUV leader Jim Allister being put on hold.

Mr Allister is judicially reviewing the Council for giving the green light to the luxury accommodation facilities in Portstewart.

Mr McShane was a member of its planning committee who approved the proposed resort at the heart of the North West 200 race route earlier this year.

Plans include a 120-bedroom hotel, spa, holiday cottages, conference facilities and restaurant being built on the Ballyreagh Road.

But the case was adjourned earlier this week when it emerged that the independent councillor has sent a sworn affidavit to both the Attorney General and the Northern Ireland Public Services Ombudsman setting out his claims.

At a further hearing today he was granted interested party status and asked about the alleged recordings.

He told Mr Justice McCloskey that he has "hours" of material taped on a device other than a mobile phone.

Mr McShane also claimed: "There is substantially more on the recordings that impacts on other things."

A barrister representing the Council confirmed the extent of disclosure being sought.

Stewart Beattie QC said: "We are seeking any recordings or documentation that is relevant to those proceedings.

"At this stage the correspondence makes a series of assertions that may have wider-reaching consequences, we don't know."

With no lawyer present in court to represent Mr McShane, the judge adjourned the disclosure application to next week.

Permission for the hotel and leisure complex was first given in June 2017, but withdrawn after Mr Allister initially threatened legal action.

The North Antrim MLA, who has a home overlooking the development site, recommenced proceedings when Council representatives passed the planning application for a second time.

Another local resident in the surrounding area has joined him in seeking a judicial review.

Their challenge involves claims of a flawed environmental screening process and the wrong criteria being applied for the scale of the tourism attraction. ends

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