Proposals for a new £60m hotel in Northern Ireland has sparked a local backlash over concerns its contemporary design will look out of place in an area of natural beauty.
A planning application to build a 120-bedroom luxury hotel was filed last December by the Northern Ireland subsidiary of ARC, a US-based real estate investment firm, reported the Belfast Telegraph.
The Dunluce Road Hotel & Second Homes development proposals include 120 bedrooms over six floors, along with restaurants, pool, spa and conference centre. There is also provision for 48 apartments, terraces and shops on the 10-acre site.
But the plans have come under fire from local residents and community groups who filed almost 400 objections to the hotel during a consultation period that closed on 16 March.
Among the protests were claims that it’s a “fantastic situation for a prestige development, but perhaps the design should be more in keeping with such a prime site”. Another said the hotel “looks too stark and modern and is not in keeping with the surrounding area”.
Community group Future North Coast has displayed a photo montage on its Facebook page of what it claims the hotel would look like against the coastal landscape.
In an accompanying statement, the group said: “The Future North Coast is passionate about preserving the north coast and we strongly agree with the need for a high-class hotel in this area, but it must be in keeping with the natural beauty of the iconic Causeway Coast. We strongly advocate preserving the coast for future generations.”
The Royal Portrush Golf Club (pictured), which will host the Open Championship 2019, submitted a letter to the Causeway Coast and Glens Council planning department over certain aspects of the proposals.
These included the design of the hotel and its visual impact on the picturesque landscape and prominence overlooking the course’s most famous section, the inclusion of 48 apartments and the impact on the environment of storm water damage.
But ARC said that its proposals have received backing from a number of “significant bodies” including Tourism Ireland, Hospitality Ulster, the Northern Ireland Hotels Federation, the Open organisers R&A, and the Ryder Cup.
“We see the Dunluce Resort as opening the door to Northern Ireland’s wider tourism offering, giving the Causeway Coast the starring role it deserves in the island of Ireland’s tourism economy,” said a spokesman for the company.
“We have seen the so-called ‘photo montage’ images being shared on social media, which have been used to encourage local objections. These are inaccurate, unofficial, and misleading images, and were not part of the official planning application. They are not to scale, and they do not take into account the topography of the site. The planning authorities are fully aware of this.”
According to the developers, the project represents the biggest single private sector investment in the area of more than £65m. ARC also said it will create 300 full and part time jobs at the hotel and 200 jobs during the construction phase.
“Economic modelling has estimated direct visitor spend from the resort to be more than £11m per year in the local economy. It will provide opportunities that will only serve to enhance the local economy,” the spokesman added. “This project is a game changer.”
The architect of the project is Ballymoney-based Richard Hunter, who was not available for interview when contacted by The Caterer.