MAURICE Bradley MLA said he is delighted that a proposal for a new hotel in Portstewart has been given the green light, despite early setbacks to this afternoon’s meeting.
Jim Allister MLA had not applied for speaking rights, however on a proposal from DUP Alderman Sam Cole, the North Antrim MLA was permitted speaking rights at the meeting.
Following Mr Allister’s presentation, which outlined his reasons against the hotel development, DUP Ald John Finlay proposed that the application be deferred for one week. Ald Finlay’s proposal was seconded by his DUP colleague, Ald Sam Cole. However, the meeting went into committee to discuss a legal point.
Following the ‘in committee’ discussions, Ald Finlay’s proposal to defer the decision was defeated by 8 votes to three. The amendment to go with the with the planner’s recommendation to approve the hotel, made by SF cllr Dermott Nicholl, seconded by Paudie McShane was carried by 8 votes.
Speaking after this afternoon’s planning meeting, Bradley said: “I was delighted to be able to speak at the Council in support of the application.
“We all know that the CC&G is one of the most popular tourist areas in N Ireland – it was recently named as one of the top regions to visit by Lonely Planet – the world’s largest travel guide book.
“We want to encourage people to come to this area and stay, spend in our shops, visit our attractions and tell their friends about the wonderful experience they had.
“The economic implications of what this hotel will bring to the area speak for themselves – employment, spin off for local businesses and local suppliers and it will enhance the profile of the area through media and marketing exposure.
“I have no doubt that this hotel will also enhance the overall visitor experience as one of the first spa hotels in this area.
“Spa hotels are becoming more and more popular within the hospitality industry, with people looking for an escape from their busy lives. I have no doubt that the spa element of the hotel will be a huge attraction to a whole new clientele for the Causeway Coast and Glens area.
“I feel that the hotel development may also help to encourage events to the area. It will be a hotel with conference facilities – so there is the potential for business conferencing which will allow for networking with local firms and employers which will in turn showcase what our area has to offer.”
The MLA added: “There was a lot of support in the local community for the hotel proposal. A petition was organised by local resident Sean Graham which gained over 1800 signatures online and another few hundred via the local shops.
“Some of the comments were significant highlighting once again the positives for local employment and the local economy.
“However, the most significant comments referred to young people moving away from the area to university and never returning home:
“The North Coast is a tourism magnet. Many young people take summer jobs in the tourism industry and become interested in the sector – they go away to university are educated in tourism, marketing, management but they have nothing to come back to here at home – this hotel will mean that we are not losing skills, we will be keeping these well-educated young people here on the N Coast.
“The proposal has been through financial analysis by the bank and the stress tests of the hotel operator, it is financially viable and can certainly stand on its own two feet, “said MLA Bradley.
He added: “Looking at the bigger picture – the tourism industry in Northern Ireland has tremendous potential for growth – which will most certainly boost our economy.
“The success of low cost airlines, the introduction of new air routes from City of Derry airport means that it is now easier than ever to gain access to our wonderful North Coast.
“We have so much to offer – the Air Waves show, the SuperCup and our golf offering, not to mention the increase cruise ship activity.
“Northern Ireland and indeed the North Coast needs to maximise its marketing weight and develop its tourist infrastructure to exploit this potential.
“Vivienne Gilholm, a director of C&V Developments, the firm behind the hotel, is a native of Portrush, she knows of the industrious hard working people in the area and has already has a team of local people in place to get going on the project.
“I have been assured that this will be a home grown project, the development company set up to get going after the planning stage is made up of N Ireland people – local people dealing with the construction on the ground.
“This is a project which I feel we can be proud of – it is innovative, and something that will be of benefit to us all. “