Northern Ireland news

100 construction jobs being held up by legal challenge

Aerial visualisation of the proposed £20m Merrow complex in Portstewart

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

Counsel for the developer also claimed the local economy is being deprived of a further £200,000 a month anticipated from completion of the 4-star resort in Portstewart.

Donal Sayers disclosed the predicted figures as he stressed his client's frustration at the delays linked to the proceedings.

TUV leader Jim Allister is judicially reviewing Causeway Coast and Glens Borough Council's decision to approve the £20m accommodation facilities.

Plans include a 120-bedroom hotel, spa, holiday cottages, conference facilities and restaurant being built at the heart of the North West 200 race route on the Ballyreagh Road.

Permission for the hotel and leisure complex was first given in June 2017, but withdrawn after Mr Allister initially threatened legal action.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 yesterday.

Mr 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."

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