The Merrow Hotel and Spa’s development team has reaffirmed its commitment to the Causeway Coast, to creating employment and to supporting tourism.
The planned £20 million luxury hotel complex in Portstewart, which will be located on Ballyreagh Road, will create over 100 hotel jobs upon completion.
Pioneered by C&V Developments Ltd and leading hotel management company, Interstate Europe Hotels & Resorts, the complex will provide 118 rooms, a luxury spa with sea views, a leisure club with a 20m pool, a glass sauna and infinity pool, a steam room, a gym and studio, a demonstration restaurant, a bar/bistro restaurant, a signature cocktail bar, a conference space, meeting rooms and nine chalets serviced by the hotel.
The development’s application for planning permission had been granted by Causeway Coast and Glens Borough Council in March 2018. However, construction was delayed as the process was challenged by the objectors just a few days short of their 3 month deadline in June 2018. Planning permission was quashed for a second time in September 2019.
Speaking on behalf of the Merrow Hotel and Spa team, Vivienne Gilholm says:
“We are very disappointed about the judgement ruling in favour of Jim Allister and Robert Agnew. After a year in the High Court the decision to grant planning was quashed on four technical points. These aspects will now be addressed with a view to securing approvals imminently. We are working tirelessly to bring this project to life and wish to assure everyone that we are not put off by delays.
“Our goal is to create a hotel complex that is sympathetic to its surroundings. Our aim has always been to provide much needed accommodation and leisure facilities that showcase the North Coast, which can be accessed by both locals and visitors alike. We believe that the stunning views should be enjoyed by as many people as possible.
“Throughout the High Court proceedings, we’ve been bolstered by the number of messages of encouragement received from local residents, businesses and organisations, pressing us to remain true to our vision and to create not only a luxurious facility that they can access but a venue that will provide vital employment for over 100 people. We are truly grateful for their support.”
Vivienne adds: “There are of course those who said ‘just invest the £20 million somewhere else, and create the jobs somewhere else’, but we truly believe in what we are doing. Our team is committed to bringing economic benefits to the local community. There is a very apt inspirational quote from one of the most famous and prolific inventors of all time, Thomas Edison, who said: ‘many of life’s failures are people who did not realise how close they were to success when they gave up’. I can assure you it is not our intention to give up.”
Supporting the plans for the Merrow Hotel and Spa, Mervyn Whyte MBE, Event Director of the International NW200, says:
“It is great to be working with such a dedicated team on the application process. We first met in 2015 when C&V Developments Ltd bought the land. At the beginning, I was worried that the original access into the field, which cut the paddock in two bits, was going to interfere with not only the International NW200, but Truckfest and other events in the paddock. The team was open to the suggestion to ask the Causeway Coast and Glens Borough Council to move the entrance to the side of the paddock to allow the space not to be broken. The Coleraine Motor Club will also continue to collaborate with The Merrow Hotel and Spa in the future.”
Commenting on the development process Nicholas Northam, managing director for the UK at Interstate Europe, says:
“Whilst we at Interstate Hotels & Resorts are disappointed to be delayed given the recent success of The Open, we recognise how appealing the North Coast is to visitors, and our appetite to work with the hotel upon opening is as strong as ever.”
The objectors’ challenge succeeded under the following grounds:
- Procedural Unfairness
- Breach of the planning committee’s protocol
- Error in law in respect of Policy AMP3
- Unlawful EIA Screening decision
The objectors’ challenge failed under the following grounds:
- Breach of the Planning Direction 2015 – The Judge ruled Causeway Coast and Glens Borough Council was the correct body to be the decision maker other than DFI.
- Policy TSM3/TSM4 ground – The judge ruled that the correct policy was applied when considering this application.
- Breach of Policy TSM 3 – This is in relation to how firm & realistic the proposal was. The judge ruled in favour that there was sufficient evidence that the promoters and project itself was firm and realistic.
- Improper Motive Ground – This relates to the grant of easement from the council for £1. The judge ruled that this was lawful and that there was no improper motive from the council.