The owners of an ultra-exclusive retreat and spa near Slemish have received planning permission for their own private airstrip!
An application to ‘adjust’ and flatten agricultural land to accommodate a 750m landing strip was granted, under certain conditions, at a meeting of Mid and East Antrim Council’s Planning Committee this week.
The strip will be reinforced with a layer of ‘perfo’, a hardening material through which grass can grow naturally effectively making the strip invisible. Only 52 take offs and landings will be permitted per year.
Work cannot begin until a power line in the vicinity is re-routed underground.
No statutory agencies have opposed the application.
The couple behind the application are Mr. Ernie Graham and his wife Dr. Karen Graham who run a network of care homes in southern England.
A few years ago, they built the super-luxurious ‘Slemish Retreat and Spa’ near to the planned landing strip at Buckna Road in the Braid Valley.
Speaking to the Ballymena Times, Mr. Graham said the tourism operation was still in its infancy with the premises currently mainly serving as a second home for the family.
“We love the Braid Valley and all the area around it and with our ties to the area it is great to be able to come back and stay on a regular basis. As time goes on we will be doing more promotion of the tourism side and I tell all my friends and work colleagues just how beautiful the area is and how close it is to some the finest scenery in the world.”
Mr. Graham, according to online details carried on the website of his company ‘The Graham Care Group’, is a former pupil of the now defunct Ballymena Boys’ Intermediate.
Having achieved a degree in Mechanical Engineering he went on to receive a full-time MBA. This led him to work in marketing with Shell International, initially for two years in London and then for over six years in Australia and Oman.
In his early 30’s, he fulfilled his ambition to run his own business when he and his wife bought their first care home in Surrey.
He is the Strategic Development Director of the Surrey Care Association which represents all independent sector Care Homes and Domiciliary Agencies in Surrey. In this capacity, he works closely with Surrey County Council on the key issues for the sector.
He is also a Director of the Kent & Medway Care Alliance.
Dr. Karen Graham is a General Practitioner who works extensively with elderly patients and is specially qualified in Mental Health and Well-being. She works alongside her husband in a supportive and advisory capacity.
A Google check reveals: “Less than 10 minutes’ drive from Ballymena, Slemish House is a luxurious 5000 sq ft 5-bedroom villa with its own 12m x 6m swimming pool, hot tub, steam room and sauna. It offers panoramic views of the Braid valley, with Slemish mountain just behind.”
According to the web-listing on luxurylet.com a stay will cost an amazing ‘from £850 per night’! Of course, the premises does boast five bedrooms which would serve to divide the cost.
Further information can be found on www.letsbookhotel.com
The booking page associated explains: “All on one level, this contemporary property features a large open-plan living and dining area, with a wall-mounted TV. The stylish kitchen is equipped with an oven, microwave, fridge and dishwasher, and leads to a separate pantry. The master bedroom has its own en suite bathroom, while the remaining 4 bedrooms enjoy use of their own en suite shower rooms. There is also a luxurious main bathroom with free-standing bath. Bedrooms feature high-quality bedding, hand-crafted furniture and fitted wardrobes. Slemish House is less than 30 minutes’ drive from Belfast International Airport. It is around 50 minutes from the beautiful northern coast, while the vibrant walled city of Derry is just over 1 hour away.”
Under the ‘important information for guests’ section it is stated: “Please note that the sauna, steam room, pool and hot tub should be booked in advance and that a surcharge applies. There is no breakfast included. A refundable deposit of £1000 has to be paid at least 14 days in advance and will be returned within 7 days of departure.”