27/02/2002

Seaport Investments submit plan for Causeway Centre

Seaport Investments is to push ahead with its plans to build a tourist centre near the Giant's Causeway in spite of a Moyle Council vote to turn down its bid to do so earlier this month.

The new proposal from the company caters for a 2700 sq m underground centre, 150 parking spaces, an interactive sector, a library, a restaurant and specialist areas for school parties among other facilities. The company believes that the site could be up and running in 18 months time if given the go-ahead and may provide jobs for up to 30 people.

Both Seaport Investments and the National Trust had tendered £10 million bids to the council to develop the site last September but, after a number of U-turns, the council finally rejected both options. Since that vote on February 6, the council had been seeking alternatives to retain the entire site within the ownership of the ratepayer.

Seaport Investments decided to move independently when, they claim, it was discovered the land flagged for development was found to be part of the World Heritage Site.

Managing Director of Seaport Investments, Seymour Sweeney, said: "Towards the culmination of the sale process, the Environment and Heritage Service discovered that the council's land was actually part of the World Heritage Site and therefore not an appropriate place for any new development."

Seaport Investments has submitted a planning application for permission to build a tourist centre on land owned by the company lying adjacent to the World Heritage Site.

However, the planning proposal was met with disbelief by both Moyle District Councillors and the National Trust.

UUP councillor Robert McIllroy said: "This is an unbelievable situation. The council was put under great pressure from Stormont to keep the land within public ownership, but if this plan goes ahead the council have effectively lost a massive capital sum. In that respect, the real losers in all of this will be the rate payers of Moyle."

In a statement the National Trust said that it would wait for a ruling on the matter by DoE to "consider fully and properly in light of planning legislation and the forthcoming management plan for the Causeway Coast Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty".

(GMcG)

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