Regeneration Funding Breathes New Life Into Portrush

Vacant, derelict or under-used land and buildings in Portrush are being brought back to life thanks to regeneration funding from the Department for Communities (DfC).

The Urban Development Grant (UDG) forms part of the Department’s £17 million investment in Portrush to help regenerate the town in the run up to, and beyond, The 148th Open to be hosted in Portrush in July 2019.

To date, nearly £1 million of UDG funding has been allocated to three projects in the town:

The Quays Bar on Eglinton Street, has been awarded £354,000 towards a refurbishment and extension;

£485,000 has been awarded to the apartment complex at 22 Dunluce Avenue; and
£116,706 has been provided to transform the old Bank building in Main Street into an Aparthotel with a bar/cafe.

Other projects have also been approved, with contracts issued totalling almost £2 million but these are at an early stage. The Department is continuing to work with private developers to bring schemes forward with new announcements expected later in 2019.

UDG projects have a long lead-in time, therefore the majority of projects in Portrush will not be delivered in advance of The Open but will instead leave a lasting legacy for the town.

Paul McNaught from the Department for Communities said: “The Urban Development Grant scheme aims to reinvigorate town centres, encourage private sector investment and tackle dereliction. The Department’s investment to date has the potential to leverage £10 million of private funding as well as redeveloping dilapidated buildings and vacant sites. This is part of a wide ranging programme of initiatives that will transform Portrush in advance of The 148th Open’s return to Royal Portrush in 2019 and into the future.”

Other projects within the £17 million regeneration programme, such as the public realm scheme (which will deliver improvements to the streetscape), revitalise (which will deliver improvements to shop frontages) and the new train station, are on schedule to be delivered in advance of The 148th Open commencing on 14th July 2019.

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  • This is a very worrying development, it looks like money has been given to projects that either will not be ready for the Open or projects that are funded by very successful businesses that do not need any kind of grant .

    Also, I wonder how the Northern Bank project got awarded that grant without receiving Planning Permission (check the planning portal – no permission has been granted to date). In fact, when the application process was open, the Northern Bank had not even formally been sold to Andras, which makes me pull up my eyebrows to a point that it nearly hurts.

    It seems the council is so eager to throw money at redevelopment that they have gone blind to the actual developments themselves:
    – The Northern Bank was not a derelict site, it was empty but far from derelict. Yes, it needs redevelopment but not to the desperate point that the council can be held ransom for granting planning permission to the redevelopment of the Londonderry hotel opposite. Reading the planning application for the Northern Bank redevelopment, the intention was for the new apartments in the old bank to be managed from the hotel across the street. Planning permission for the hotel has been refused due to the impact on a listed building without consideration for the history, at least there is something not instantly given up just because of a large figure investment.
    – The empty plot beside Quays bar is a tidy fenced site with no bad visual impact on the surroundings, very much unlike many other derelict and untidy empty sites for instance on Lansdowne or Causeway street. Quays is a very successful bar that does not need a grant for redevelopment.
    – The development behind the Quays called Dunluce apartments is of the same type, this was not a derelict building or an abandoned site. It is beyond me how that ever was passed by planners, but I don’t live beside it so I didn’t get notified until it was too late for any objections. Not that objections matter these days because so long as it’s a 7-figure development, the council seems to think it will benefit the town. Regardless of the purpose of the development (usually apartments targeted at holiday makers, so they will be empty in winter, ergo no benefit to the town whatsoever), the building contractor (Belfast or the Republic even, I am yet to see a development that has local builders working) or the impact on parking (please don’t get me started on parking).

    I am very worried that the council cannot see beyond someone waving a forecast of a big figure investment on paper, without doing due diligence whether or not this investment will indeed benefit the town or even the Bourough.

    In fact, the local shops (with the exception of the White House which seems to be faring surprisingly well despite all economic misery) all struggle to keep going, and I believe that stimulating shops and entrepreneurship in the local high street will be of greater benefit than the realization of yet another dozen apartments tucked away somewhere behind electric gates. There are now several empty shops, and the number seems to be rising. No surprise, the rates of a shop in the high street in Portrush are so high that a shop sometimes cannot even raise enough revenue in the winter months to even cover rates and rent. Why is that? The discount on rates which is often referred to is minimal. I personally own a shop on Main Street, which is not very big, and the rates are 1296/year. That is after discount, before discount it would be another 400 pounds more. This is in no comparison to a 2-bedroom apartment with seaviews and private parking, which is only 800/year but is 4 times larger than that particular shop.

    In terms of locals not benefiting from anything: the local football youth is calling on private sponsors to raise money to buy a portacabin to use as a changing room. The local park on Ramore Head has been closed since last year and WaterWorld is open only 9 weeks a year. Where are the facilities that do benefit the local population and especially the youth? These facilities I mentioned not only benefit the locals but also tourists. Development of the tennis courts, crazy golf pitch and the bowling greens would also be of great benefit, but the club house there seems to be in a more desperate shape than any of the developments that have received grants. I am very puzzled what drives the councils priorities, because clearly it’s not the local community but strangely enough neither is it actual tourism because that doesn’t benefit from a few dozen apartments. That would benefit a lot more from reasons to travel to Portrush such as the coastal activities, outdoor activities, things to do with kids and youngsters. New pavement is not something that is of great benefit to the local population, it makes the town look nicer but does not open up play grounds, football changing rooms or other sports facilities.

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