‘£300k in monthly builder wages not being paid thanks to hotel hold-up’

Jim Allister's property overlooks the site
Jim Allister's property overlooks the site

At least 100 construction jobs paying nearly £300,000 in monthly wages are on hold due to an on-going challenge over a major new hotel and leisure complex on the north coast, the High Court has heard.

A lawyer representing the Scottish-based developer C&V Developments provided the figures yesterday at the latest court hearing concerning the case.

TUV leader Jim Allister is judicially reviewing Causeway Coast and Glens Borough Council’s decision to approve the £20m 120-bedroom hotel, spa, and conference development on the Ballyreagh Road, Portstewart.

Permission was first given in June 2017, but withdrawn after Mr Allister initially threatened legal action.

The North Antrim MLA, who has a home overlooking the development site, recommenced proceedings when council representatives passed the planning application for a second time last year.

Another local resident in the surrounding area has joined him in mounting the challenge.

In a dramatic intervention late last year a member of the planning committee who approved the hotel project alleged he recorded conversations with officials connected to the case.

Independent Councillor Padraig McShane, who also chairs the local authority’s audit committee, is now seeking whistleblower status over his claims of having taped material.

Amid ongoing attempts by the Council to secure any relevant tapes, the case was mentioned again in court today.

Mr Donal Sayers, representing the Scottish-based developer C&V Developments, noted how his client has been described as suffering “collateral damage” due to the ongoing situation.

An 18-month construction phase has yet to get underway, Mr Justice McCloksey was told.

It is expected to involve one main contractor employing at least 100 people, with wages peaking at £297,000 a month.

Counsel said those plans have been interrupted by the legal challenge.

The court was told the hotel project, when completed, would provide jobs paying £157,000 a month in wages, £46,500 in food bills, and £15,500 in beverage bills.

“These are indicative of the direct benefits the local economy is being deprived of,” Mr Sayers submitted.

Following submissions Mr Justice McCloskey confirmed a further four days will be allocated to completing the case.

He told all lawyers involved: “The dates of March 25-28 are set in very solid stone.”