Hotel next to North West 200 route: council took eyes off the rules, court told

Computer generated image of the planned hotel
Computer generated image of the planned hotel

A council unlawfully “took their eyes off the rules” in approving a new £20m hotel and leisure complex at the heart of the North West 200 race route, a court has heard.

Lawyers for North Antrim MLA Jim Allister claimed flaws and inconsistencies around the granting of planning permission for the project in Portsewart.

Alan Kane QC argued in the High Court on Tuesday: “The decision-making process is deficient and has been contaminated to such an extent that there should be quashing orders.”

Earlier this year Causeway Coast and Glens Borough Council gave the green light to developers behind the proposed resort.

Plans include a 120-bedroom hotel, spa, holiday cottages, conference facilities and restaurant being built on the Ballyreagh Road, beside the North West 200 paddock.

Permission was first given in June 2017, but withdrawn after Mr Allister initially threatened legal action.

The TUV leader, who has a home overlooking the development site, re-commenced judicial review proceedings when council representatives passed the planning application for a second time.

Another local resident in the surrounding area has joined him in taking the case.

Their lawyers have mounted a number of grounds of challenge, including claims the environmental screening process for the proposed coastal location was flawed.

They also contend the council used the wrong criteria, and should have considered the application under a policy for a larger-scale tourism attraction.

Mr Kane claimed inconsistencies with a similar proposed development at the nearby Dunluce resort.

Objectivity was “lost or became blurred”, possibly due to the prospect of securing a four-star hotel in the area, he submitted.

The barrister stressed: “We are not alleging the council behaved in a corrupt fashion. We are saying there was a loss of objectivity in dealing with this matter because of, perhaps, an understandable desire for these particular facilities.

“But in doing so they took their eyes off the rules, and as a result didn’t, in our view, behave in a lawful fashion.”

The case, being heard by Mr Justice McCloskey, continues.