Northern Ireland news

Council £1 right of way inspected more than a year after valuation date

An aerial visualisation of the planned £20 million Merrow complex near Portstewart
Connla Young

A right of way granted by a local council to hotel developers for £1 was inspected by valuers more than a year after the deal was done.

The easement - or right of way - was granted to Northumberland-based C&V Developments by Causeway Coast and Glens Borough Council on March 22, 2016.

The right of way is linked to a site where C&V Developments want to build a £20 million four-star resort at Ballyreagh Road near Portstweart in Co Derry.

The project was granted permission by the council last year and is at the centre of an on-going legal challenge taken by TUV leader Jim Allister.

Valuation documents seen by the Irish News show that an inspection was carried out at the request of council officials on July 10, 2017.

However, the valuation date has been listed as March 31, 2016 - 14 months before the site was inspected.

The easement value was later declared as ‘de minimus’ - a Latin term used in legal circles meaning “too small to be meaningful or taken into consideration”.

Padraig McShane

Council minutes show that the local authority agreed the grant of easement to Northumberland-based C&V Developments nine days before the valuation date.

The valuation was carried out by a registered valuer on behalf of Coleraine based estate agents Philip Tweedie and Company.

In the report, the valuer said the inspection “has been completed using my own professional experience and judgment in the absence of proper comparable evidence and taking into account the very particular circumstances of the situation.

“On balance, I have decided that the value of the easement is de minimis as a result of the estimated costs of developing the land."

The valuer said the project would boost the local economy.

“It should also be pointed out that the development of the adjacent land will enhance the economy of the borough and will be to the benefit of the council,” the valuer said.

“It is our considered opinion that the market value of the grant of the easement at the valuation date can be fairly reflected by the amount of de minimis.”

Mr Allister and a neighbour are attempting to block the development of the planned resort, which is close to properties they own.

TUV leader Jim Allister

The planned Merrow Hotel and Spa will comprise a luxury spa with sea views, a leisure club with 20-metre pool, a glass sauna and infinity pool, steam room, gym and studio, cookery school, bar/bistro restaurant, signature cocktail bar, conference space, meeting rooms and nine serviced chalets.

The 13-acre site is near the North West 200 road race circuit.

In December Mr Allister’s legal challenge was put on hold after independent Causeway Coast and Glens councillor Padraig McShane intervened.

It is alleged that Mr McShane, who was a member of the council planning committee that approved the proposed resort, recorded conversations with officials connected to the legal challenge.

Councillors at Causeway Coast and Glens were expected to meet last night to decide if Mr McShane will be given whistle blower status.

A hearing of Mr Allister’s legal challenge is due to take place this morning.

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