The go-ahead has been given for the development of a five-star, 120-bedroom hotel with 70 golf lodges, close to the Giant's Causeway on North Ireland's north coast.
By announcing the green light for the £100m Bushmills Dunes Golf Resort and Spa, environment minister for Northern Ireland, Alex Attwood, has put an end to one of Northern Ireland's longest running planning disputes. The National Trust and Friends of the Earth had opposed the plans on the grounds of the environmental impact to the area.
Attwood said he had decided to grant permission because of the boost to tourism and the economy the development will bring to the area. However, his decision involves stringent conditions to limit the detrimental impact on the landscape.
US-based management expert Dr Alistair Hanna, who has headed the investment consortium behind the project, said he intended the resort to become a world-class attraction aimed at the exclusive end of the golfing market, which - with nearby links courses - could rival the golf facilities of St Andrews.
"In today's world the best is still selling very well, the mediocre is not doing well at all," explained Hanna, who is originally from east Belfast. "You have got to position this as being one of the best in the world."
Located on a 365-acre site, the new hotel and resort will employ 360 staff and is expected to be open by 2014.
By Janet Harmer
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