Would going private with Causeway really mean no public funding..?

ALTHOUGH Seymour Sweeney has argued that his plans for a Causeway visitor centre would come “at no cost to the public purse”, the Department of Enterprise wasn’t quite convinced, if its letter to DUP minister Nigel Dodds is to be believed. While the letter memo stated a “private sector led solution” from Mr Sweeney’s company Seaport would “negate the need” for Government investment of up to £21m, it added that “it is likely that Seaport Investments will seek grant aid for its proposal. This application could be for as much as 50% of the total build cost which, given the proposed scale and size, could be anything from £15-£20m.” This could ultimately mean a grand saving to the public purse of, oh, as little as a million quid. Frankly, peanuts. Or, to put it another way, around the going rate for four of the Sweeney-built Ballyallaght cottages so beloved (though not necessarily owned by) Ian Paisley Jr. With such a ‘massive’ saving on offer, no wonder prudent Mr Dodds shelved plans for a wasteful publicly-funded tourist centre(!)

  • Danny O’Connor

    And if my memory serves me ,the revenue generated would go to the developer,whereas it currently goes to Moyle dc.

  • red branch

    and when was the last time such a project was delivered on budget. So the saving could easily disappear

  • Alan

    Surely, Dodds should be asking for a business plan for the operation of the Sweeney scheme in advance of any decision to withdraw support from the Moyle / NT scheme.

    Also, in consideration for the integrity of the planning process, it may be in Sweeney’s best interest and certainly in the public interest to have sight of a detailed business plan. Such a plan would clear up this issue once and for all.

  • jone

    I understand the BBC will be reporting a significant twist in the Causeway story on Radio Ulster at 5pm.

  • Nevin

    Apparently, Moyle District Council is to lease its property at the Giant’s Causeway, including the car park, to the National Trust. It looks as the project ‘favoured’ by Foster and acquiesced to by Dodds is slowly disappearing into the distance.

  • ulsterfan

    Is it too early to celebrate?
    This is a move in the right direction.
    Questions still need to be asked of Moyle DC and NT.
    I hope the council did not give the family silver away for a pittance.
    We will have to find out details of the leasing arrangements and plans of NT.
    The NT should now be in a position to properly develop the site which must include the hotel in which they have an interest.
    We want only the best with a good return to the public purse.
    Lets not forget an enquiry into the actions of MLAs in this matter as they are accountable to the electorate.

  • Nice one, Moyle DC: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/northern_ireland/7104468.stm

    Pick the bones out of that!

  • ulsterfan on Nov 20, 2007 @ 06:57 PM:

    Questions still need to be asked …

    … a good return to the public purse …
    The best return will be a well-managed, dignified show-casing of a major national icon. The “return” will be far wider than just “the public purse”. This isn’t a catch-penny fairground attraction.

  • ulsterfan

    I don’t entirely agree with you.
    The site will generate significant finance which should be properly used for development in the site, and why should the rate payer/taxpayer not get some benefit from it?
    It will not be some cheap attraction but as good as anything else in the world if not better now that we have the opportunity.

  • ulsterfan @ 07:22 PM:

    The ratepayer/taxpayer gains from every penny spent in the gift-shops, bars, hotels, roadside attractions and strip clubs restaurants in the district. My recollection of visits to the Causeway is that, like a Chinese meal, two hours later you need another one. Which is where Bushmills distillery have put their money, and where other private entrepreneurs could usefully put theirs.

  • The Raven

    I am kinda hoping that this latest announcement will help to stymie Mr Sweeney’s attempts to milk this particular site. As I think I have said before on this site, Mr Sweeney’s attitude on “how to do business” when it comes to development up here have been well-documented.

    Indeed, perhaps it’s time I delved back into the local paper archives to see what I can find to reproduce here.

    Folks, let me say it, (and please – if retrospectively I am proved to be wrong, I will buy all on this site a large one in the Crown): If any aspect of the Causeway falls into the hands of this particular (or indeed any other) private developer, the whole thing will just be a joke. “Oh…let’s put a hotel here too…oh and some “exclusive luxury apartments”….oh and a bar where those funny shaped stones are”. You may think I am being flippant. Come up to the north coast sometime…we can see what “sensitive development” has done for Portballintrae.

    Moyle District Council don’t have the resources to do this on their own. The National Trust has a bit more dosh, and a lot more clout. (Mind you, the current administration’s lack of respect for the environment – built or otherwise – probably negates that). Perhaps now we will actually see something coming forward that doesn’t need anyone to be minded to do anything other than ensure that the Causeway and its environs stays where it belongs – in public hands.

  • joeCanuck

    The Raven,

    You wouldn’t happen to be up for the fare, would you?

  • Belfast Gonzo

    This ain’t over til it’s over. Watch out for the Sweeney/Paisley rearguard action.

  • Nevin

    Here’s one to watch:

    Carson McDowell sponsors key Planning Conference

    Exploring the Future of Planning in Northern Ireland

    There has for some time been a consensus that the current planning system in Northern Ireland is not working as effectively as it could to the benefit of all those who depend on it. ..

    The confernce takes place on Thursday 29th November 2007 at the Stormont Hotel. ..

    Conference Delegate Fee £195.00 +VAT @ 17.5% = £229.12″

    Carson McDowell just happens to be, er, solicitors for the Sweeney/Seaport/Paisley ‘alliance’ – the Movers and Shakers. The delegates are hardly likely to be a representative cross-section of the community. £230 will be small beer for those who ‘facilitate positive planning outcomes’ for a ‘planning fee’ of, say, £5000 per site.

    PS Did NITB ‘approach’ the developer to purchase the miniature railway or is it a little more complex than that? Was the ‘market rate’ paid? No doubt, there is an extensive paper trail, one that the investigative journalists may not (yet) have followed.

  • Nevin

    BG, the Mystery of the Ballyallaght Triangle makes an additional telling point: planners turn down a retirement dwelling and give permission for fourteen dwellings across the road – in the space of a month.

  • Nevin

    National Trust brings in Whitehall over Causeway fears

    I understand that Hodge is awaiting full details of the ‘minded’ proposals from Foster and will then make a full report to UNESCO. Let’s hope that the Hodge approach isn’t ‘too little, too late’ so far as the protection of the Causeway’s WHS status is concerned.

    I don’t suppose the Sweeney/Seaport/Paisley ‘alliance’, or indeed the (lesser) DUP ministers, expected such prolonged and wide-ranging scrutiny of their scheme.

  • Alex S

    I paid a visit to the ‘north coast’ this summer, first time in years, the place is ruined with big blocks of apartments on every headland, there should be a public enquiry into how it was allowed to happen, who lobbied for it, Portrush and Portstewart are ruined especially for the pernament residents

  • The Raven

    I can’t find out who was responsible at the moment, but yet another landmark building was demolished this week. It’s small, imperfectly formed, and called, very boringly, the Ice House. Yet the story encapsulates all that is wrong with development up here. This, from the Belfast Telegraph:

    A new historic preservation watchdog with tougher powers is needed in Northern Ireland, an MLA has said after further demolition of Portstewart’s old harbour ice house.

    John Dallat said the current protections offered by the Environment and Heritage Service are “as useful as an ashtray on a motorbike when it comes to preserving buildings”.

    He made the call after a demolition crew moved in on Monday evening to take down sections of the historic ice house. A planning application has been submitted for apartments on the site, but not yet approved.

    The demolition started on the old stone building on Saturday, but local residents intervened and the destruction came to a halt. But the crew returned on Monday to take down another section of the building.

    “This ice house was part of the history of Portstewart,” said Mr Dallat.

    “It told the story of the hardship, and the risks taken by fishermen long before there was a proper harbour there. None of this is taken into consideration when the Environmental Heritage Service is making their decisions to list properties.

    “Indeed there is an incentive to allow old buildings to fall into an advanced state of disrepair so that they are not listed and that must change. ”


    The Department of the Environment said the historic significance of the ice house had been considered, but it was decided not to list the building.