It would be a “terrible blow” to the north coast if a gigantic golfing complex was not to go ahead as planned.
That is the view of one veteran unionist councillor in the area, amid reports that the land earmarked for the Bushmills Dunes golfing development is to be sold to an alternative buyer.
It is believed the land is to be bought by Dr Peter FitzGerald, managing director of pharmaceutical firm Randox – although when asked on Wednesday night, a spokeswoman for the firm said they were “unable to provide any further detail, at this time”.
It has been claimed by the BBC that the original plan to create the golf course and hotel complex had “foundered”, with difficulty finding the funding required to bring the blueprints to fruition.
On Wednesday night Willie Graham, leader of the UUP on Moyle District Council, said: “We’d hope it would be going ahead for the employment it would provide.”
He added joblessness is high in the region, which he described as “not the wealthiest area in the country”.
He said it was a “£100m investment – we don’t get many investments of that size up in north Antrim”.
DUP MP Ian Paisley, a long-time champion of the scheme, had pointed out that planning permission will remain in place for the complex for several years, allowing any new buyer to take it on.
He added he has been aware in the last two months that another party was interested in taking the project forward, but said: “I have no report on how far that consideration has been taken.”
The way was paved to create the Bushmills Dunes course in February last year, when a judicial challenge by the National Trust was thrown out by a judge.
Fears had been raised about the site’s proximity to the Giant’s Causeway, and the ramifications that its construction would have for conservation in the area.
One detractor of the scheme, James Orr from Friends of the Earth, had likened the scheme to “a burger bar next to the Taj Mahal”.
Anna Lo, environment spokeswoman for the Alliance Party, said earlier this week that “the potential scrapping of any plans for the Runkerry golf course is good news for the surrounding environment”.
However, Councillor Graham said if this were to happen it would be “a terrible blow”.
Businessman Dr Alistair Hanna had dreamed of creating a golfing development on the north coast since the early 1990s, and first submitted an application in 2001.
He died of cancer in July.