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National Trust spared paying full legal bill in failed golf resort battle

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A controversial golf course development near the Giant's Causeway in County Antrim has been given the go-ahead

A controversial golf course development near the Giant's Causeway in County Antrim has been given the go-ahead

PA

A controversial golf course development near the Giant's Causeway in County Antrim has been given the go-ahead

The National Trust has been spared from having to foot the full legal bill for its failed bid to block a £100m golf resort near the Giant's Causeway.

A High Court judge yesterday refused the Department of the Environment's bid to be awarded costs.

His ruling means both sides will pay their own legal expenses in a case where sources predicted the fees will run into six figures.

In February the court rejected all grounds of challenge to Environment Minister Alex Attwood's decision to grant planning permission for the scheme.

A counsel for the National Trust yesterday confirmed there are no plans to appeal the ruling.

The verdict cleared the way for a championship links golf course, five-star 120-bedroom hotel and 75 villas at Runkerry near Bushmills, Co Antrim. Developers say the proposed resort will create around 360 jobs and a further 300 through suppliers and construction.

Lawyers for the trust had attempted to stop the development because of its proximity to the Causeway stones, a Unesco World Heritage Site. They argued that Mr Attwood (right) acted unreasonably and irrationally in giving the green light for the resort last year, and claimed proper consultation was not carried out.

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But Mr Justice Weatherup backed a counter submission by the Department of the Environment that world heritage convention guidelines have no standing in UK law.

The row has continued since the ruling, with a report for the United Nations cultural body, Unesco, calling for a halt to the plans. It said the planned Runkerry development would have an adverse impact on the world heritage site.

In court yesterday counsel for the department applied for a costs award.

But the trust's barrister, Stewart Beattie QC, urged the judge not to make such an order due to his client's charity status and the importance of issues raised in the case.

He said: “The judgment has been seminal in terms of people's understanding not only of Unesco but of the wider process of public consultation.”

Asked about a possible appeal, Mr Beattie indicated there are no plans for now.


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