Overseas funding boosts property firm's efforts to develop hotel in Donaghadee

The new hotel proposed for Donaghadee takes its name from the town's lighthouse
Ryan McAleer

A PROPERTY company has moved ahead with its latest bid to redevelop a former public building in Donaghadee with overseas funding.

Urban Property Solutions, which includes Copeland Gin backer Michael Dunlop, has submitted a planning application to turn the Co Down seaside town’s former bus depot into The Lighthouse Hotel.

According to Companies House, the two directors with significant control of shares in the firm, reside in Hong Kong. Since 2017, Urban Property Solutions has also borrowed around £2.5 million from a company registered in the Caribbean.

The firm’s main activity has been described on the online profile of one its directors as “investing in distressed urban property with direct foreign investment”.

The firm has already been given the go ahead to redevelop Donaghadee’s former community centre in Donaghedee into a distillery and the former town hall into apartments.

Now it has officially sought permission from Ards and North Down Borough Council to build a four-star 40-bedroom hotel on the old bus depot site. The bid includes a spa, restaurant and function rooms.

Translink closed the facility in 2013 and later placed it on the market with an asking price of £300,000.

The old depot is located close to the new Copeland Distillery. The gin company was originally founded by Gareth Irvine in 2016 after raising £30,000 through crowdfunding. Co Down property developer Michael Dunlop joined as a director in April 2019.

Michael and Stephen Dunlop are listed as long-serving directors of Urban Property Solutions.

Both directors previously addressed a meeting of Ards and North Down Borough Council, outlining their company’s plans to regenerate Donaghadee and make it “a thriving seaside town” by 2030.

The firm’s directors also includes two Hong Kong-based directors Richard Johnston and Choo San Yeoh. Both are listed by Companies House as persons with significant control, owning between 25 per cent and 50 per cent of shares in Urban Property Solutions.

Mr Johnston is head of Asia at UK investment consultancy Albourne Partners, which specialises in hedge funds and private equity.

According to Companies House, Ballysona Ltd, a company incorporated in the British Virgin Islands in the Caribbean, owned more than 75 per cent of Urban Property Solutions until 2017.

Although no longer listed as a party with significant control, a series of active charges remain outstanding in respect of Ballysona. Between 2017 and 2020, Ballysona lent around £2.5m to Urban Property Solutions Ltd.

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