Hotel, spa, conference centre plan considered in study

THE Railway Station in Portrush could be relocated.

A study has been launched to decide if the Portrush economy could benefit from the relocation.

The study has been commissioned by the Department of Social Development and Coleraine Borough Council.

Minister Alex Attwood said land currently occupied by rail tracks in the resort could be freed up for development and allow better access to the seafront.

A four star hotel, spa and conference centre have been suggested as projects.

Mr Attwood said it was part of wider Portrush regeneration plans which aims to rejuvenate the seaside resort.

He said: “The study is an important first step in determining if the ground on which the train station sits can be freed up for development. The report will also establish the options available to re-locate the train station, the extent of the development ground and the potential costs of the relocation including building a new terminal.”

Mr Attwood said there was a good argument that government investment in urban regeneration was “as effective an economic tool as other job interventions”.

The relocation proposal was a key recommendation in the Portrush Western Peninsula Strategy, launched in 2007.

Meanwhile Environment Minister, Edwin Poots visited the resort last week, to learn about the progress of the regeneration and development plans.

During the visit, which included a walk around the key areas, the Minister gained a comprehensive insight into the progress of the plans for Station Square, West Bay and the Harbour.

Mayor of Coleraine, councillor Norman Hillis said: “Portrush remains the premier traditional seaside resort in Northern Ireland.

“The majority of the 2 million visitors that visit the North Coast each year come to seaside town. Portrush, like most other traditional seaside resorts in the United Kingdom, has struggled in recent decades. Changes in market dynamics have seen the local traditional holiday market decline. With this in mind Council has made Portrush regeneration a key priority and is leading the plans to encourage a brighter and more sustainable future for the town.

Moira Mann, Head of Development Services at Council, added: “As part of the implementation process we commissioned additional market research to measure visitors’ perceptions over time as we roll out the strategy. The results from 2010, our first year, are very interesting:

“74% of visitors said they came to Portrush for the quality of the natural environment including the beaches. 83% of respondents agreed Portrush was a great place to visit, 92% would recommend Portrush to friends, and 97% agreed Portrush has great potential. Council would not disagree. However, the research suggests that people believe the town has failed to move with the times. Dereliction was the most disliked aspect of the town, followed by the need for better shopping both largely private sector responsibilities. There is a need to engage, facilitate and encourage private sector investment. This is precisely what Council is trying to achieve. If we can deliver increased footfall across the year through enhancing the town’s assets, we believe the private sector will follow.”

The Minister, who has a longstanding affinity with Portrush, confirmed that he supports the regeneration of the town and wished Council well in taking forward the future plans for the area.