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Minister approves hotel bids for historic buildings on final day in office

Mourne Park House in Kilkeel, which is set to be turned into a hotel.
Mourne Park House in Kilkeel, which is set to be turned into a hotel. Mourne Park House in Kilkeel, which is set to be turned into a hotel.

TWO hotel developments caught up in the north’s planning system look set to go ahead after ministerial intervention on Thursday.

John O’Dowd granted planning permission for the redevelopment of Mourne Park House in Kilkeel and The Londonderry Hotel in Portrush, just hours before vacating his post as caretaker infrastructure minister.

Both buildings have listed status.

Mourne Park House, which was significantly damaged in a 2013 blaze, is part of an estate which dates back to the 16th century.

The Woodland Trust last year bought 156 hectares of the estate and opened it to the public.

The ancestral home of the earls of Kilmorey, current owner and descendant Marion Needham Russell is behind the application to redevelop it into a luxury hotel.

Marion Needham Russell pictured at Mourne Park House in 2008.
Marion Needham Russell pictured at Mourne Park House in 2008. Marion Needham Russell pictured at Mourne Park House in 2008.

Newry, Mourne and Down’s planning committee last year went against the advice of officials and granted planning approval for the application.

It was subsequently ‘called in’ by the infrastructure minister.

In a statement, Mr O’Dowd he had carefully considered all the evidence and the report and advice from his officials.

“On balance I believe that this development will bring significant economic and social benefits to the Mourne area, boosting tourism and creating employment opportunities for the local community.”

Meanwhile, Belfast-based hospitality group Andras Hotels originally launched its bid to redevelop the Atlantic bar and former Londonderry Hotel in 2017.

An image produced in support of Andras Hotels' bid to redevelop the Londonderry Hotel in Portrush.
An image produced in support of Andras Hotels' bid to redevelop the Londonderry Hotel in Portrush. An image produced in support of Andras Hotels' bid to redevelop the Londonderry Hotel in Portrush.

The application for an 83 bed hotel on the site was approved by Causeway Coast and Glens Council in 2019, but was later ‘called-in’ by the infrastructure minister over concerns around the historical nature of the buildings.

Mr O’Dowd said: “I fully recognise and respect the need to protect our built heritage and there has been positive engagement between my department, the applicant and Historic Environment Division throughout this process.

“I believe this current proposal for an 83 bed hotel, which retains the original façade and other elements of architectural and historical interest, has the potential to deliver a tourist development which can make a contribution to the local and wider economy in terms of the revenues it can generate, the employment opportunities it can provide and the potential it creates for economic growth.”

READ MORE: Andras launches revised bid for £10 million Portrush hotel development