THE National Trust has less than six weeks left to appeal against the decision to allow a massive golf resort to be built on the north coast.
But it has not yet said if it intends to do so.
The Trust had been granted a judicial review of the Department of the Environment’s decision to allow the Bushmills Dunes golf resort to go ahead.
But a judge threw out the Trust’s arguments last Wednesday, removing the barrier for building work on the resort to begin.
Now the clock is ticking on whether the Trust will launch a bid to overturn the judge’s decision.
Asked about an appeal immediately after its judicial review case was rejected, Heather Thompson, the National Trust’s Northern Irish director, said: “We’re not committing to anything at this stage – we really need to look at the judgment.
“It’s one of many options we would have available to us.”
When the News Letter pressed the Trust for an update this week, its stance had not changed.
Richard Hunter, architect of the Bushmills Dunes resort, said: “I suppose one of the things they’ll have to sum up or ask themselves is, bearing in mind they lost on all 21 grounds (in the case), is an appeal something they want to do?
“I don’t know what they’ll do. But I know what we’re doing – we’re moving forward here. Because this has been a long time, and we think it was a pretty resounding result last Wednesday.”
They are getting ready to do preliminary work, such as wildlife surveys, on the site.
The National Trust sought the judicial review amid concerns of damage to the area’s environment if the resort went ahead, and the fact it is located near Northern Ireland’s only official World Heritage Site – the Giant’s Causeway.
Judicial reviews generally involve hiring at least one barrister, and costs of such actions can be substantial, but the National Trust would also not give an estimate of the costs of the case.
Meanwhile, reaction to last week’s judgment has continued to filter through.
Edwin Fleming, 75 and from Portstewart, is the chairman of the Causeway Coast Communities Consortium – and strongly opposed the plans.
He was also in court for all three days of the judicial review late last year.
He said: “It certainly will, unquestionably, do damage to the place. You can’t stick a hotel and golf course and car parking and the rest of it there without doing enormous damage to the place.
“I was quite horrified about it.”
He estimates there are about 11 courses already in the area.
“Some of them, of course, would probably bite the dust over the whole thing if it happens,” he added.
But Mr Hunter rejected these arguments.
And at least one golf course says otherwise too.
Wilma Erskine, manager of the Royal Portrush Golf Club, said her gut reaction when she heard the court judgment was “about time”.
Miss Erskine said: “We have no objection at all. In fact we’d support it.
“We were very pleased for the people involved. It’s been a very long, drawn-out and probably very expensive exercise and the fact it’s all happened now I think is very positive for the area and very positive for Northern Ireland.”
She said the plans would bring the only five-star hotel to the area – the closest they have so far is a four-star one in Bushmills.