Planning permission has been approved for a proposed 20m rock armour taper and associated sand trap fencing and planting at Royal Portrush Golf Club.
Councillors at Causeway Coast & Glens Planning Committee granted permission despite officers’ recommendation to refuse.
The club, which hosted the Open Championship in 2019, had applied for planning permission for the proposed defences to help protect and maintain the integrity of the Championship course for the foreseeable future.
A decision on the application had previously been deferred to allow members of the Planning Committee to make a site visit.
At the visit the officer pointed out the area of terminal erosion and advised the concerns of consultees that the hard defence would create further erosion on the soft dune system.
The existing rock revetment was constructed in the 1980s following a severe storm event in 1983 which resulted in the erosion of a portion of the 6th tee. The existing structure is located in front of the existing 5th green and 6th tee of the Royal Portrush Golf Club course.
Councillors were told of the importance to the economy both locally and for Northern Ireland if the application was refused. It was described as the jewel in the crown of golf tourism and refusal would be unimaginable for the economy.
Experts explained that damage from further storms to the iconic 5th green and 6th tee would be irrecoverable should the defences not be approved.
They also explained that maintaining and preserving these holes would be vital to the return of the Open in the future and the potential loss of further Championships would have a major impact on the economy.
The sellout 148th Open delivered over £108 million to the Northern Ireland economy with Causeway Coast & Glens benefitting to the tune of £26.2 million from golf tourism.
Speaking in favour of the application, North Antrim MP Ian Paisley in asking councillors to refuse the recommendation, said “doing nothing was not an option”.
He said; “Don’t kill the golden goose and throw the golden eggs out of the basket.”
Alderman Sharon McKillop proposed the application was passed believing it would have “no adverse impact”, it was seconded by party colleague Alderman John Finlay.
The application was approved with a recorded vote with five votes for, three against and six abstentions.
For: Cllr Anderson DUP; Alderman Duddy DUP; Alderman Finlay DUP; Alderman Sharon McKillop DUP and Cllr Scott DUP.
Against: Alderman Baird UUP; Alderman Boyle Alliance and Cllr Hunter UUP.
Abstained: Cllr McGurk Sinn Fein; Alderman McKeown UUP; Cllr MA McKillop SDLP; Cllr McLaughlin Sinn Fein; Cllr McMullan Sinn Fein and Cllr Nicholl Sinn Fein.
Speaking after the application was approved, MP Ian Paisley said: “It was an excellent decision by the Planning Committee.
“It was very difficult for them but they showed immense maturity and weighed up the tension between the ideal and the necessary.
“This decision secured the environmental coast that we all love and the economic future of the area.
“All things are now on track for the return of the Open.”