PGA golfers have already pre-booked rooms for the Irish Open at a contentious north coast hotel - which hasn’t been completed yet.
The 20-bed, boutique hotel is currently under construction at the The Diamond, Portstewart, but has been held up by objections from locals who fear that an attached nightclub will harm the town’s family image.
Now, after receiving backing for the project from Environment Minister, Alex Attwood, Coleraine Borough Council has stepped in and will be holding emergency talks with the Planning Service and local residents in a bid to fasttrack the development and have it open and operational by the June 28 deadline.
News of the demand for beds months in advance of the Irish Open arose at last week’s planning meeting at Council headquarters in Coleraine.
Independent councillor and Stormont MLA, David McClarty, raised the issue because he feared the north coast was running out of time - and beds - before the prestigious event.
“Time is of the essence,” he told members. “there are firm bookings from golfers attending the Open and we have few enough beds in this part of the Province.”
Planning officer, Paul Duffy, said that the item was not on that evening’s agenda because the minister had only just intervened. However, he believed the application capable of approval.
This outraged, fellow independent councillor, Christine Alexander, who said she was “flabbergasted” the matter had even been raised without the objectors being given a fair hearing.
Councillor McClarty suggested a special meeting to permit all parties to “thrash everything out”. Members agreed to the proposal and it is believed the meeting will take place the second Tuesday in March.
Plans to build the hotel on a small corner site in Portstewart has divided both councillors and residents since the original application was first granted planning permission back in May 2007.
Some are angry that developer, Norman Menary, has expanded the original 17-bedroom proposal to include lounge bars and a conference hall - right next door to a sheltered/retirement home. They believe this is just a euphemism for nightclub and will create noise and parking issues.
Meanwhile supporters of the development, highlight the additional beds and jobs the hotel will bring to the small resort.