No free lunches here

And certainly not when it comes to private developments. The BBC report the headline, but as the Belfast Telegraph’s David Gordon points out there are catches involved. First is the associated development which would remain with the Sheridan Group.

But its Causeway centre idea may fall foul of the National Trust and other environmental groups due to the private development element within it.

Then there’s the slight problem of a recent government assessment on Sheridan’s ability to deliver the Queen’s Quay project.. and another small matter..

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  • Dawkins


    I noticed this in your linked Telegraph piece:

    The intervention of Peter Curistan’s Sheridan Group into the debate has the potential to create awkwardness for the DUP.

    The company is taking a judicial review against a decision by the Department for Social Development to axe it as preferred developer for a major riverside development site in Belfast.

    The case may involve documents linked to a controversial attack on Mr Curistan by DUP deputy leader Peter Robinson in early 2006.

    The MP questioned the riverside development plan and accused the businessman under parliamentary privilege of being linked to “IRA dirty money” . This claim has been vehemently denied by Mr Curistan, who has challenged him to repeat it outside the Commons.

    This raises the interesting speculation — [let’s keep speculation to a minimum – edited moderator]

  • Presbyterian

    Sheridan Group. What a shower! Hmmm. compared to this proposal Seymour Sweeney is looking pretty good.

  • Paul

    Curistan’s just sticking the boot into the DUP!

  • Nevin

    “Century City, had had its financial accounts qualified by its auditors” … part of the Sheridan Group?

    Seaport Investments Limited (NI25468) became Seaport (NI) Limited (NI025468) on August 1, 2007.

    What’s going on? Should the Government be investigating the background to all companies before ‘getting into bed with them’?

  • Dawkins


    Yes. I’d understood that was good practice.

  • jone

    View fronm the RSUA:


    First Minister for Northern Ireland
    Deputy First Minister for Northern Ireland
    Minister for the Department of the Environment
    Minister for the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Investment


    I wish to express our serious concern at the recent announcement that the proposed competition-winning scheme for a new visitor centre at the Giant’s Causeway is not to proceed in favour of a potential private development.

    The publicly funded international architectural competition which produced an iconic proposal for this world heritage site attracted well over 200 entries from across Europe and worldwide, and from numerous high profile architects. The UNESCO competition was an exceptionally well publicised event that shone a bright light on Northern Ireland and promised a new architectural landmark for our signature visitor attraction.

    It is therefore shocking that within such a short period of time since the restoration of local government, Northern Ireland’s politicians should now propose to deny the people of Northern Ireland this publicly sponsored, publicly owned building which would in turn generate an income for the public purse.

    Instead of this development representing a new confidence and optimism in Northern Ireland, we risk embarrassment on the international stage by failing to deliver the currently proposed scheme by Heneghan Peng, an internationally acclaimed architectural practice. Furthermore, our public sector will have demonstrated a willingness to abuse the efforts, resources and good faith of the private sector companies who were involved and participated in the project to date; competition entries from over 200 companies being an extremely expensive investment by the private sector working within the prescribed public process.

    Our new political landscape demands visionary leadership and the support of ambitious public projects. Government’s own ‘architecture policy’ states that it aims, “to demonstrate commitment to architecture and the built environment for Northern Ireland policy objectives through the delivery of exemplar publicly-funded projects”.

    We call on all of you to reverse the recent decision about the Giant’s Causeway Visitor Centre and for Northern Ireland’s government to honour its commitment to its own policy on the built environment and to the competition winning scheme.

    Trevor A Leaker
    Royal Society of Ulster Architects

    Cc Minister for the Department of Culture Arts and Leisure
    Moyle District Council

  • interested

    You have to admire Curistan’s b*lls…. to release a statement calling his proposal “free” really does stretch the bounds of credibility.

    Mind you – its not half as bad as listening to the muppets on talkback saying what a wonderful idea this would be.

    Apparently a visitor centre = bad because it might dare involve a private developer and would ruin the Causeway, but a visitor centre, some houses and a hotel would be a fantastic thing and would somehow preserve the Causeway.

    You couldn’t make it up – about as absurd as the people on Lets Talk last night complaining that “the causeway would be in private hands”. You’d have think the stones were going to be privatised and would now be subject to naming rights sponsorship.


    A truly marvellous stroke by Curistan.

    I’d say he’s still wiping tears of laughter from his eyes.

  • interested

    “A truly marvellous stroke by Curistan.”

    To a degree – particularly in the very short term. However, what he may well have done in the medium to longer term is made people take a look at the benefits of the original private proposal.

    He could have done a big favour by putting forward a truly ludicrous suggestion.

  • Dawkins

    I wish Sweeney had chosen a better name for his company. I keep imagining a poor Islamic statelet in the Caucasus.

  • wild turkey

    ‘I keep imagining a poor Islamic statelet in the Caucasus. ‘


    Well we obviously have a Curistan. Why not carve the pork barrel into a

    Stooperstan and

    The boundaries between the various statelets can be delinated by tasteful Laura Ashley drapes manufactured in, uh, Alliancstan

    As Gore Vidal noted writing on Middle Asia ‘Doncha just love those stans’

  • nospinplease

    Desmond Tutu summed up ALL politicians and might as well have been talking about ours when he said
    the ANC only stopped the gravy train long enough to get on board.

  • Alan

    This whole debacle is descending into the ludicrous and dragging the Assembly’s reputation down with it.

    The Seaport option is now politically and morally untenable. Curistan is a ghost to another purpose that should not be tolerated. That leaves us with the DTI led consortium.

    Foster has to choose the only viable option. To fail to do that would be political suicide and adieu to DUP dreams of taking Fermanagh & S Tyrone.

  • Nevin

    Alan, the debacle has also drawn attention to some disturbing aspects of the planning process.

    Consider the impact of the following quotes from Minister Foster and the developer on the freedoms of our elected politicians and those who can’t take a risk on a day or days in court:

    “If you run a story that is inaccurate then I will have to take action.” Developer in the Belfast Telegraph June 10, 2007 following Councillor Alexander’s £7,500 fine for trespass on ‘common’ land that the developer had somehow acquired a title to.

    “A minister, when making decisions, cannot and should not investigate party affiliations of applicants, and I did not do so in this case,” the minister said. “I do not know the applicant, have never met him, and know nothing about him. “If anyone impugns my integrity in this matter I will be seeking legal advice and will act accordingly.” .. Minister Foster (Prudent use of taxpayers’ money thread)

    I spoke to an acquaintance who was familiar with some of the planning history associated with the site currently known as Ballyallaght Farm Cottages. The site lies in a V formed by the A2 Whitepark Road and Castlenagree Road. It was a farmyard and contained an old thatched former farmhouse.

    The farmer sought planning advice on the possiblity of building two or three houses on the site. He contacted planners on at least two occasions with the aid of a local councillor and each time he got more or less the same answer, “You’ll only ever get permission for a replacement dwelling because there are too many exits and the main road is too busy”.

    How come a developer was able to build more than fifteen houses on a site that the planners insisted could have no more than a replacement dwelling? Perhaps it’s time for Minister Foster to overhaul the planning process so that all applicants are treated equally.

  • Nevin

    Ballyallaght Farm Cottages and some forlorn seagulls.

  • Nevin

    “A minister, when making decisions, cannot and should not investigate party affiliations of applicants, and I did not do so in this case,” the minister said. “I do not know the applicant, have never met him, and know nothing about him.” .. Foster earlier this week

    I’ve done a little more research, including brief conversations with some residents and councillors from Coleraine.

    How secure is the ‘know nothing’ claim? She may not know what he eats for breakfast but she does know about another of his projects, a plan for apartments on Mountsandel Road, Coleraine.

    I’m told that on July 9 this year she and some of her officials met with a delegation from Coleraine district. The delegation included an MLA, a councillor and several concerned residents from Coleraine.

    It would appear that the residents of Mountsandel had not been adequately informed about the total extent of the development. Perhaps it’s a phased development with the developer’s hand only being revealed in stages.

    I understand that the Minister was sympathetic to the concerns of the delegation and she offered to take a closer look at the overall project before it’s permitted to proceed further.

  • Bob

    Maybe the DUP have been taking pointers from Bertie? In Arlene foster’s responses she is very defensive about her lack of research into this proposal makes herself look like a joke. Threatening to sue those who question her decision. Now that is democracy. If only we had parliamentery privilige we could say what we like when we like and of course not concern ourselves with the truth ( Mr Paisley).

    I enjoy thre response from the RSUA, i do not remember this competition but i was not looking out for it. I find it interesting that this funding for a UNESCO backed proposal is also being cut by the DUP.

    Thi stinks worse than the contents of Bertie’s suitcase.

  • Nevin

    Arlene will have an opportunity to clarify her stance when she appears before the Environment Committee this coming week.

  • Nevin

    Would the Black Rock ‘cage‘ in front of Runkerry House, Bushmills, require planning permission? I understand it’s only been installed quite recently.

  • Nevin

    ‘Free lunches’ reminds me of a conversation I had with an MLA some years ago. He was dining at Stormont when he spotted two familiar folks dining together: one was Ian ‘I know of him, yes’ Paisley and the other, Seymour Sweeney.