FIGHTING to promote tourism on the north coast while planners are permitting developers to demolish hotels is like flogging a dead horse, according to Coleraine councillor, Christine Alexander.
The independent representative made the comments at last week’s Borough Council meeting after it was announced that Belfast company, BCH Enterprises, would be granted planning permission to knock down a 30 bed hotel and bistro complex known as Inn on the Coast.
Developers plan to demolish the Ballyreagh Road hotel with its dramatic views of the north coast sometime in the next four years and replace it with 16 “dwelling units with associated road works and landscaping.”
However, the land on which the hotel stands is former Council property and was sold to the previous hotelier with a stipulation that it could never be used for purposes other than the promotion of tourism and leisure.
Councillor Alexander hit out at the Planning Service for ignoring Council’s drive to promote tourism and increase bed capacity as highlighted in a recent government tourism document.
“We all have a duty to protect our tourism assets,” she told the planning officers who attended the meeting.
“We need to promote and expand our tourism infrastructure and accommodation if we are to attract international tourists,” she said.
“As elected representatives our views have to be taken into account. What is the point in having our opinion put forward in the draft tourism proposal if you are just going to ignore it.
“People will blame us for this - we are the elected representatives,” she added.
Mr. Brown, who attended the meeting alongside fellow officer Paul Duffy and Planning Manager Helena O’Toole, defended his office’s decision claiming they could present “no objections to the proposal in planning terms.” He offered to ‘hold’ the application for 10 days.
“Holding it for 10 days will do nothing,” said an exasperated Cllr. Alexander who won support for her stand from fellow councillors Norman Hillis and David Harding.
Referring to the possible influence the planners’ decision could have on the outcome of any future legal battle over the land, she added: “It is ridiculous that one public body is forcing another one to spend money on legal bills to fight this when we have already made our views clear.”
Members agreed unanimously that planners not issue approval right away but “look at it again taking into account Council’s response to the draft tourism proposals.”