“the looming legal row, which is due to commence on 9 January, could become a defining event for Northern Ireland…”

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Well, perhaps.  At the very least it might provide the basis for some actual politics, for a while…  ANYhoo…  The Observer’s Jamie Doward with a reminder of the upcoming legal battle over planning permission for the Bushmills Dunnes development - a 18-hole golf course, clubhouse, golf academy, 120-room hotel and 75 golf lodges complex, plus associated car parking facilities, at Runkerry, close to the Unesco World Heritage Centre Giants’ Causeway and Causeway Coast.

In June this year the National Trust sought leave for a judicial review of the decision to grant planning permission for the project – to the reported anger of “Stormont ministers”…  According to the BBC’s anonymous source.  [Northern Ireland Executive Ministers being so reluctant to speak to the media... - Ed]  Indeed.

The judicial review hearing is scheduled to begin on 9 January 2013.

From the Observer report

The majority of local politicians and businessmen seem to be behind the plan. Ian Paisley Jr, a Democratic Unionist MP, described the trust’s opposition as a “disgrace to Northern Ireland”. Golfers are also supportive. [2011 Open champion Darren Clarke] has attacked the trust for trying to block a project that he said would create 360 jobs for the local economy.

Paisley claims that the row has already prompted one potential financial backer to look elsewhere.

The trust, which has four million members around the world, is acutely aware that its decision to take legal action is controversial and almost unprecedented. But Heather Thompson, National Trust director for Northern Ireland, claims the trust had no choice: to walk away from the fight would have been a betrayal of its core beliefs and detrimental to the long-term success of Northern Ireland.

“This issue is wider than about Ireland and even the UK,” she said. “It’s about how we use the resources we have today to ensure future generations have similar opportunities.”

In a letter to the trust’s 60,000 members in Northern Ireland, she explained: “We passionately believe that such a development in this protected landscape is wrong – once it’s gone, it’s gone. If this development is allowed to proceed in this special place, then the message is being dispatched that nowhere in Northern Ireland, no matter how special or protected, is safe from development.”

Unsurprisingly [Alistair Hanna, the New York-based developer behind the scheme], an evangelical Christian, has been critical of the trust’s actions. “Those who instigate judicial reviews cost taxpayers money and slow down development, despite knowing the process can’t improve the decision,” he said on Twitter.

Among interested observers of the court proceedings will be the World Heritage Committee of UNESCO…

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  • boondock

    Regarding the development a few things to keep in mind. The National trust had no problem building their own massive visitor centre so close to a world heritage site. The trust also doesnt have a problem with a rail track running over the very same precious land. Contrary to all the hysteria where you would think golfers are chipping over the causeway itself the course will actually be located over 2km away next to an existing golf course and the village of Portballintrae. Maybe the national trust and Unesco should consider flatteniing the village with all its unsightly caravans as obviously they are having an equally detrimental effect on the causeway

  • boondock

    Just to add the 2 most famous Unesco sites I can think of are Stonehenge and the pyramids of Giza. One is located in the middle of 2 A roads which are only 50m and 200m from the stones themselves and the other is located next to a city of 3million people where the city lies less than 300m away from the pyramids!!

  • carl marks

    boondock (profile)
    30 December 2012 at 8:20 pm

    Just to add the 2 most famous Unesco sites I can think of are Stonehenge and the pyramids of Giza. One is located in the middle of 2 A roads which are only 50m and 200m from the stones themselves and the other is located next to a city of 3million people where the city lies less than 300m away from the pyramids!!
    The roads and the city were built before Stonehenge and the pyramids where given world heritage status, so hardly a fair comparison,
    the proposed golf complex is a big mistake both for the causeway and local businesses (B&Bs, Hotels, etc) but if you would prefer to endanger our only world heritage site and the local proven businesses for some unconcerned and at the moment unnamed persons profit ( if the place bucks the present trend of bankruptcy for this type of setup), then you’re taking a hell of a chance.

  • OscarTheGrouch

    How do we get the review to ask ministers and National Trust Leaders, on oath, if they have ever put personal issues before duty in their dealings concerning this area – specifically have ministers requested the National Trust to alter their exhibitions to suit their religious beliefs. ie the Caleb Foundation, Young Earth Creationism, et al. If they have and there is indicators in released FOI requests that they have – then surely its not impossible that the public good is not their top priority here either… first God then mammon?

  • OscarTheGrouch

    Regarding bankrupt golf resorts – do they guarantee that the G9 or some other junket will be held there every so often to stave off the receivers as they’re doing in Enniskillen?

  • boondock

    Carl Marks
    To be honest the whole response from the National Trust has been laughable. What they should be doing is arguing about the loss of unique and endangered dune scape and the possible loss of endangered species located within the dunes instead we are threatened with having the Unesco heritage status being revoked. The examples I gave just points out that the Unesco rating for heritage status is already pretty dubious. I was also pointing out that the NT are not too worried about developments in such areas when it comes to their own developments..
    The hotel venture may very well be a flop but at the same time the opportunity for several hundred jobs is not to be sniffed at either.

  • aquifer

    Can this course be a classic links and sand dunes course at this site?

    If not, just another golf course can be put elsewhere.

    Will any Hotel have world-class architects like the National Trust visitor centre?

  • iluvni

    Given the visitor centre is an overpriced monstrosity, the National Trust have a cheek complaining about anything.

  • Boglover

    The NI PPS1 states; “The town and country planning system exists to regulate the development and use of land in the public interest. The public interest requires that all development is carried out in a way that would not cause demonstrable harm to interests of acknowledged importance.”
    Necessarily, this is a complex task and compromises must be made. In the eyes of many, the public interest of the Runkerry development distils down to the economic benefits of new jobs, but this is simplistic and ignores the intention stated in the Northern Area Plan to protect the landscape around the Giants Causeway. This is at the heart of the NT’s case and why they were given leave to proceed with the Judicial Review.

    Dragging this back on topic, it is seems to me unlikely that the JR will be a “defining event” for NI politics, but the importance certainly should not be understated. The real question is whether the JR will throw any light into the darker corners of the planning system and the extent that politicians attempt to manipulate the planners.

  • raftonpounder

    This particular case speaks to the larger question of what exactly is the economic strategy of the NI Executive.
    Do they look at what the NI society genuinely needs and try to encourage that development or simply go along with the presumption that any development is the right development?

    Are NI golf courses full to bursting and there is a a demonstrable demand for a another links golf resort in this part of the world?
    Is the flighty international golf tourist a sustainable market for the NI product?
    Is it worth damaging an internationally recognised landmark and environmentally sensitive area of significance if the answers to the previous two questions is anything less than a resounding yes.

    This is not really about the National Trust either, it is about the planning system of NI once again not working in the larger public interest. Waiving through a golf resort will bring short term benefits and low skill hospitality jobs but continues to put elite interests above public good.
    What does building this monstrosity next to one of our few global icons says about our confidence in ourselves, in our ability to develop our community in the way we wish to and our elected representatives to protect our interests?

    NB. We also still have no idea of whether any financial relationship exists between the big four political parties and Mr Hanna.

  • http://www.secondnature.ie Michael

    The National Trust is hardly known for being a hotbed of radicalism but in their conservatism I have to say they do know what they are talking about. They have saved hundreds if not thousands of properties across the UK from certain demise – that’s a lot of heritage!

    The planning system in South was distorted for short term aims while we all stood back and tutted at them. look where it ended up. This is not just about one decision in a stunning location – it is about all the decisions that are certain to follow as well – if you can overturn law (official planning policy) in one instance – you can do it anywhere for any reason.

    Working with Dublin City Council during the past few years has allowed a few insights as to how this works – where practically every controversial decision was created by local political intervention – even in contravention of statutory development plans.

    The ordinary planners applying planning control don’t stand a chance when every decision can be pitted in the light of “economic development”.

    I was disappointed and somewhat surprised at Alex Attwoods decision to grant the permission against all the professional advice.

    I hope the Judges can be more circumspect and well done to NT for at least keeping a certain rigour and scrutiny on politicians when others in the media and public sphere don;t seem to know how to do that work.

  • Shibboleth

    What is the point of “Unsurprisingly [Alistair Hanna, the New York-based developer behind the scheme], an evangelical Christian, has been critical of the trust’s actions.”

    It as irrelevant as left handedness disability or the colour of hair unless you wish to imply all evangelicals think like property developers or are making a religious association between Ian junior and the developer. Perhaps Mr Baker can point out the relevance.

  • http://nalil.blogspot.com Nevin

    Pete, you’ve overlooked the Department of Culture Media and Sport in your tag’s compilation:

    Why didn’t the UK Department of Culture Media and Sport insist that the Northern Ireland Department of the Environment resolve the issues raised in the UNESCO request dated 20 December 2011 BEFORE making an announcement about the Bushmills Dunes golf resort? After all, it is the department responsible for the protection of UK World Heritage sites, including their status. source

    I wonder if DCMS-DOE exchanges are accessible via FoI or if they’re exempt. Will they feature in the court proceedings?

    Paul Blaker, DCMS WHS chief: “I exchange lots of day to day emails with officials in DOENI” .. 12 July 2012