Jim Allister wins challenge over £20m north coast hotel

An artist's impression of the hotel
An artist's impression of the hotel

TUV leader Jim Allister has won his legal challenge to planning permission for a new £20 million hotel and leisure resort on the north coast.

A High Court judge identified breaches in the process and held that Causeway Coast and Glens Borough Council’s decision to approve the four-star complex near Portstewart was procedurally unfair.

Mr Justice McCloskey ruled: “Mr Allister was not afforded a fair and reasonable opportunity to make comprehensive, informed representations to either the Planning Committee or the other statutory agency endowed with relevant legal powers, namely the Department for Infrastructure.”

In a statement following the verdict Mr Allister said: “I greatly welcome the decision of the court, after careful scrutiny, to the challenge I brought as a private citizen against a planning decision by Causeway Coast and Glens Borough Council.

“I will now consider, with my legal advisors, the next steps to be taken in this matter.”

Together with a neighbour, he sought a judicial review after the green light was given for the development close to their homes.

In March 2018 the council granted planning permission for a hotel and spa complex on the Ballyreagh Road.

The project also involves conference and banqueting facilities, holiday cottages, a restaurant and visitor attraction centre for the North West 200 motorbike races.

Nearly 100 full-time jobs, generating almost £2m in salaries, would be created, it was claimed.

With up to 50,000 guests expected annually by the third year of operation, the court heard projections they could spend around £6m per annum in the local economy.

Mr Allister’s legal contended that there was a bias towards securing planning approval at all costs.

However, the judge said: “I am left with no misgivings about the purity of the conduct and motives of the planning officials and the Planning Committee members.”

Mr Allister mounted a wide-ranging challenge to the planning permission, including claims that the environmental screening process for the proposed coastal location was flawed.