Me and Mrs Jones gets go-ahead

PLANNING permission has been granted for alterations to a new boutique hotel at the Diamond in Portstewart.

The thorny issue of the hotel, called Me and Mrs Jones, was raised at Tuesday’s meeting of Coleraine Borough Council’s Planning Committee and at the subsequent full Council meeting during which the hotel’s Entertainment Licence was also granted.

The public gallery was packed with objectors to the hotel’s plan to include a basement function room which, they claimed, would become a nightclub.

The applicant for the hotel, Andrew Bradley, was also at the meeting.

First to address the meeting was Planning representative Paul Duffy who explained that planning permission has already been granted to a 17 bed hotel on the site back in May 2007.

Mr Duffy said that objections had been received regarding general disturbance and concerns from an adjacent nursing home.

He said that it was Planners’ opinion that the development is a hotel and not a night club. It would cater for conferences and weddings. He said Planners were satisfied that its primary use would be as a hotel.

He said that the basement would be sound-proofed and concluded that, in land use terms, the development is suitable therefore Planning permission would be granted.

David Wilson, solicitor for the Abbeyfield Nursing Home next door to the development, then addressed the meeting saying that the residents were worried about the overshadowing and overlooking which would be caused by the development.

Mr Wilson said that there were also concerns regarding noise nuisance from patrons exiting the premises and those using the proposed beer garden.

Another objector, Una McGovern, was also permitted to make a presentation to the meeting.

She said she was speaking on behalf of local residents who recognised the need for hotel provision in Portstewart but who were concerned that plans for a basement function room were simply just plans for another nightclub in the resort.

Councilors were shown a presentation which was illustrated with graphic pictures of drunken night-clubbers, people urinating in the street, criminal damage, surrounding pavements covered in litter and vomit.

She said that the decision was “an unfair interpretation of Planning policy” and added that granting permission for the development would only add to the anti-social behaviour arising from the night time economy in the resort. She also pointed out that the development was near to homes, schools and churches and was right beside a nursing home.

Appealing to councillors for their support, she concluded: “Don’t ignore the reality of poor Planning decisions. Residents have rights too. This is not about the hotel, this is about a huge extension which could cater for 500 - 600 people.”

The applicant, Mr Bradley, was also given an opportunity to speak but said he had nothing to add.

When it came to voting, the following supported the granting of planning permission: Cllr Archibald, Cllr Barbour, Alderman Hillis, Cllr Harding, Cllr Holmes, Cllr King, Cllr Loftus, Cllr McCandless and Alderman McClure.

The following voted against the proposal: Cllr Alexander, Cllr Duddy, Cllr Mark Fielding, Cllr Phyllis Fielding, Alderman Hickey, Cllr McLaughlin and Cllr McQuillan.

The following abstained: Mayor Alderman Bradley, Cllr Boyle, Cllr Cole, Alderman Creelman and Cllr Fitzpatrick.

Later in the evening, it was also agreed to grant an Entertainment Licence to Me and Mrs Jones.

Director of Environmental Health, Kieran Doherty, outlined in detail the number of conditions attached to the licence - including granting the licence for an initial six months.

He also pointed out that the licence pertains to the ground floor and basement and not to the beer garden or open areas.

He said that patrons would exit via the Diamond car park rather than onto Lever Road.

Mr Doherty said that he was confident that any noise arising from the premises would be easy to monitor.

He added that, at this stage, there was no evidence to suggest that the hotel’s entertainment would have an impact but reminded members that they had an initial six months in which to review matters.

Again Council voted in favour of accepting the granting of the licence.