Northern Irish Environment Minister Alex Attwood today announced his decision to grant planning permission for the Bushmills Dunes Golf Resort and Spa.
The application is for a proposed golf resort including 18-hole championship golf course, clubhouse, golf academy incorporating driving range, a 3-hole practice facility, 120 -bedroom hotel incorporating conference facilities & spa, 75 guest suites/lodges, and associated car parking, maintenance building and landscaping. It is to be built along the Whitepark Road and Causeway Road to the north of Bushmills and to the east of Portballintrae.
According to the press release
Announcing his decision today: the Minister said: “The recent success of our golf champions has created an international interest in golfing opportunities in Northern Ireland and this ambitious development will provide a further stimulus. It will bring significant benefits to the North Coast in terms of tourism – creating new jobs and providing new accommodation and so provide a significant boost to the local economy.
“This has been a demanding decision and I have not taken it lightly. Before deciding, I wanted to ensure that I was fully aware of the environmental aspects of the proposal – the likely impact on the setting of the World Heritage Site at Giant’s Causeway, the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and the local wildlife – and so recently spent time at the site assessing it from a number of different vantage points including the system of sand dunes. I particularly interrogated the issues around World Heritage status, the role of the World Heritage Centre (WHC)/UNESCO and the approach that may be taken by the WHC. I have acted with a high vigilance and challenging approach.
“I have carefully considered both sides of the argument but given the boost to tourism and the economy that the proposal will bring, I have decided to grant planning permission. To ensure that the environment is fully respected, my decision will be accompanied by stringent conditions which will mitigate the impacts of the development on the ecology of the site and the local landscape.
“The development is an important one for the Causeway Coast and for Northern Ireland, will help to grow tourism, create new job opportunities, enhance our golf product and continue to protect our natural heritage, such a big part of the quality of our lives.”
The Guardian has some reactions
Friends of the Earth’s Northern Ireland director, James Orr, said a more sensible approach would be to protect one of the country’s most important tourist attractions.
“Many discerning tourists will not expect to see a new hotel, practice greens, lighting, new houses and manicured lawns so close to the spectacular wildness of the Giants Causeway.
“By all means build another golf resort and hotel, but not here. Is it too much to ask that we build it in the right place and in a way that is supported by planning policies?
“Planning policies for that area are very clear – the landscape around the Giants Causeway should be protected. Instead, a form of landscape trauma is being permitted at Northern Ireland’s only world heritage site. It’s like building a drive-through burger bar at the Taj Mahal. The precedent set today is that our planning system still cannot protect our most special places.”
The National Trust said the dune system was the wrong place for such a large development and they would now consider their options.
This is an appallingly badly worded stgatement, Especially as with planning decisions taken centrally this was a decision taken by the minister without a conventional meeting or public inquiry. You would expect an assessment along the lines of – is this contrary to policy, if so are their material considerations which outweigh it. The treatment of the World Heritage Site issue makes it seem as if the minister is looking for ways around the WNC/Unesco rather than examining his obligations under the convention. It reminds me of the ministers decision in Scotland on the Donald Trump plans, approved with a one sentence memo almost instantly after receiving the inspectors report and clearly not having read it (as the inspector had a number of requests of the minister which were not fulfilled). Knowing smthingabout the economics of golfcourses there are no new championship quality links golf courses built these days without a couple of hundred houses tacked on to cover the capital costs of building the course. Indedd there have been no new golf courses in England for 10 years. So expects a follow up application in a year or so to build the extra houses because of concerns about viability.