A COUNCIL granted a right of way for £1 to a development company behind plans to build a multi-million-pound Co Derry hotel.
Details emerged during a High Court challenge launched by TUV leader Jim Allister on Tuesday.
Mr Allister and a neighbour are attempting to block the development of the £20 million four-star hotel close to properties they own near Portstewart. Causeway Coast and Glens Borough Council granted permission for the Ballyreagh Road project this year. Mr Allister owns a nearby house which he intends to live in when he retires, Mr Justice McCloskey was told.
It emerged during the hearing that the council granted Northumberland-based C&V Developments an easement, or right of way, to the site for £1. Mr Allister’s barrister, Alan Kane QC, said the “easement that presently exists has a narrow access to the subject application property”.
“But the easement granted by the council for £1 to the developer is for a much more extensive area of ground,” he said. Mr Kane said a “new area of access has been granted”.
The leisure facility was given planning permission last year. However, the council later asked the High Court to quash the decision following a threat of legal action from the TUV leader.
The 13-acre site is near the North West 200 road race circuit.
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.
Mr Allister’s legal team say the environmental screening process was flawed. They also contend that the council used the wrong criteria and should have considered the application under a policy for a larger-scale tourism attraction.
Mr Kane claimed inconsistencies with a similar proposed development at the nearby Dunluce resort.
“We are not alleging the council behaved in a corrupt fashion,” he said.
“We are saying there was a loss of objectivity in dealing with this matter because of, perhaps, an understandable desire for these particular facilities.
“But in doing so they took their eyes off the rules and as a result didn’t, in our view, behave in a lawful fashion.”
The hearing continues on Wednesday.
Source: The Irish News