MLAs hit out at council ‘hypocrisy’

TWO Stormont MLAs have hit out at Coleraine Borough Council’s decision not to fast track planning permission for a new 20 bed hotel on the North Coast - in time for the Irish Open.

Independent MLA and Coleraine Councillor, David McCarty as well as Sinn Fein MLA, Cathal Ó hOisin, condemned the local authority for disbanding last week’s emergency planning meeting calling the decision “political” and “hypocritical”.

The meeting, called for Tuesday, ended prematurely when DUP councillor, Mark Fielding, read out a prepared statement calling for members to postpone their deliberations, despite planners recommending approval of the hotel, thought to be called “Me and Mrs. Jones”.

Supported by the Mayor, Alderman Maurice Bradley, he claimed council was setting a dangerous precedent by holding an emergency meeting for a hotel development.

He called for an additional two weeks to permit objectors - who fear the hotel is a ruse to open a new nightclub - time to prepare their case.

However, planning officer, Paul Duffy, explained to members his office could find no planning grounds to refuse permission to the developer, Norman Menary.

And he further reminded council it was their “corporate decision” two weeks earlier to hold the emergency meeting which would have enabled the lease holders to open in time for the international golf event.

“As a council we have been publicly congratulating our golfers and welcoming the Irish Open to Portrush but where are they going to stay,” queried an angry Councillor McClarty who first called for the emergency meeting.

At last month’s planning meeting the MLA revealed that PGA golfers had already booked rooms at the hotel but the operators of the hotel were afraid they may not get open in time while planning permission remained outstanding.

“This is hypocritical” he said. “The councillors that are saying we want to attract more international visitors are the same ones employing pointless delaying tactics for something which planners have already decided to issue planning permission for.

“Despite the objections, it is going to be a fantastic provision for the north coast and Portstewart in particular with 12 high class bedrooms that - if we are going to realise our full tourist potential for the area - we badly need,” he added.

In a statement issued after the meeting, East Londonderry MLA Cathal Ó hOisin said he was disappointed by the DUP led decision not to hold the special planning meeting and draw a line under the controversy.

“While I understand concerns have been raised in terms of certain aspects of the hotel, I was under the impression that the developers had in fact met all the criteria including the listed building status to proceed with the project.

“In fact Environment Minister Alex Atwood has given his backing to the project and a special meeting was to be convened in order to fast track the proposal.

“It is in no one’s interest neither the council nor the developer to drag this out until after The Open has passed,” concluded.