“somewhat distorted by political comment and controversy..”

Now that he’s just an ordinary MLA, Ian Paisley Jnr may have more latitude in expressing support for the planning application by Seymour Sweeney for a Causeway Centre.. but I’d suggest there will be some raised eyebrows in the Environment Minister’s office over his comments on the news that Mr Sweeney has requested a hearing at the independent Planning Appeals Commission on the Minister’s ‘notice of opinion to refuse’ that application. From the Belfast Telegraph report

Mr Paisley Jnr today welcomed the prospect of an appeal and said the merits of the planning case “have been somewhat distorted by political comment and controversy over the applicant”.

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  • joeCanuck

    Gives a new meaning to the phrase “developmentally challenged”.
    This guy is totally incapable of learning.
    As for his Svengali, flogging dead horses comes to mind.

  • bob’s my uncle

    he hasn’t gone away you know!

  • perci

    dunno if its me, but everytime I keep hearing about seymour sweeney
    am reminded of seymore butts 😉

  • Inspetor Clouseau

    Over breakfast with an influential business leader recently I was assured that Seymour Sweeney is shrewder than all the “folks on the hill” put together and would not at all be annoyed about the recent “publicity”. His plan for the Causeway Visitor’s centre is far from dead.

  • joeCanuck

    Yes, Inspector, but normally developers do their wheeling and dealing behind the scenes, which is exactly what happened here initially.
    If Sweeny does now decide to try to move this project along, he will have to do so in the full glare of publicity. His shrewdness, if true, will not be able to be deployed.

    Mummy, it’s over!

  • Inspetor Clouseau

    Jo,
    One can be shrewd without being 100% secretive. In my experience with developers public engagement is a very good decoy for behind the scene “work”.

  • Blackmouth

    No shame whatsoever.

  • David Ford

    Am I allowed to agree with Jnr that the demerits of the planning case “have been somewhat distorted by political comment and controversy over the applicant”.

    As one who has read the UNESCO report and the relevant sections of the draft Northern Area Plan, as well as reading/skimming the Planning Service files, I believe that it is clear that there were very good reasons for refusing the Seaport application identified by officers of both PS and EHS when they reported to the Minister in June 2007 and again in January 2008.

    Jnr may lobby as he wishes, but the PAC is required to consider matters on planning grounds, not political lobbying.

  • Pete Baker

    Is that technically agreeing with Jnr, David?

    And what of his implied criticism of the Environment Minister?

  • McGrath

    Either Junior is a complete lug or Sweeney has him by the balls. Probably both.

    Sweeneys “shrewdness” is blazing in his harnessing of Junior, isn’t it? That all worked out really well, didn’t it? Neither of them will be able to fart without scrutiny from here on in, pure genius.

  • McGrath

    But, Junior does know how to play musical chairs, ala the policing board.

    Is it still musical chairs when you are told where to sit?

  • David Ford

    Pete

    I think that Jnr and I agree that the media concentration has been on the persons, not the policy or process.

    We do rather fundamentally disagree on the decision taken by the Minister to refuse the Seaport application. I remain concerned about what ever led to her being ‘of a mind’ to approve, as the files suggest that senior advisers in DOE (PS and EHS) were against the Seaport application all along. However, I believe that she redeemed her position and demonstrated probity in her final decision.

    That refusal has clearly placed Arlene Foster in disagreement with Jnr: something she may have in common with many members of the DUP Assembly Group. Others may choose to speculate, or link to other threads about the future of the DUP leadership.

  • Can the ‘positively expeditious‘ Junior play the Trump card?

  • joeCanuck

    Does he have a spade?

  • “In a statement today, Mr Sweeney’s firm Seaport said its “multi-faceted UK-wide professional team ” had examined the Minister’s refusal decisions and concluded that they “not sustainable”.” Belfast Telegraph 29 February 2008

    The outcome is very difficult to predict. Much will depend on the commissioner appointed and on the tenacity of the objectors.

    Such a team was in place during the PAC inquiry into two linked projects for the old salmon fishery site in Portballintrae just off Beach Road ; it lost. According to the Grapevine, the Planning Service and the Environment and Heritage Service both performed abysmally whereas the Portballintrae Residents Association (see April 2006 newsletter) and its friends were up for the challenge, at some considerable cost to their members. It was a David and Goliath tussle but David came out on top.

    The Blackside project has also been to appeal but this time the commissioner failed to spot the existence of only one dwelling on the site when there was an application for two replacement dwellings. After all these years the project hasn’t gone beyond a hole in the ground yet the BBC has allegedly ‘censured’ the broadcast of this curious story by one of its own programme makers.

    We’ve all heard about old time farming where the pigs were kept in the parlour but who’d have expected to find a bathroom suite in the piggery!!

  • joeCanuck

    I have to admit to some ignorance about the whole planning business.
    If Sweeney got approval that would be independent of any actual build presumably. In other words, he could get all the planning permissions he wanted but would have to spend his own (or investors) money to proceed.
    Could we end up with 2 centres side by each, one private, one public?
    Is there a time limit on planning permission?

  • Joe, it looks as if Sluggerites have mostly gone to sleep on the Visitor Centre debacle. This will suit the developer and his DUP cronies. Lets hope David Gordon et al keep their eyes on the ball!!

    You might wonder where all of Seaport (NI) Limited’s money is coming from. It’s obviously hoping for money from public funds but there would still be a lot of private money needed, not to mention the £50 million plus for the Ballee project and the large sums of money tied up in unsold and negative equity properties.

    I’m told that it’s very difficult to identify these investors, especially those who wish to remain anonymous. It’s not beyond the bounds of possibility that a PACNI commissioner or a high court judge could have funds invested in these development companies.

    Sweeney/Seaport aka Causeway Arts and Crafts lost an earlier planning appeal adjacent to the Dimple of Tomb following the withdrawal of another project.

    However, attention needs to be paid to the ability of Carson McDowell – Sweeney/Seaport solicitors and provider of the Sarcon (No 250) Limited shelf company that allegedly owns the DUP office in Ballymena and the mysterious Sarcon (No[]) Limited linked to the Ballee land deal – to overturn Planning Service area and other plans and, perhaps, to influence the formulation of new ones.

    I say allegedly because the Companies Registry, currently one of Nigel Dodd’s DETI outfits, appears to be in a bit of a shambles. In theory, CR must be notified of changes of directors within 14 days and has 5 working days to complete the documentation. My conservations with CR and Carson McDowell staff indicate that changes can be backdated and can be left to the time of the annual return as the 14 day rule isn’t enforced.

  • It looks to me as if Mr Sweeney has just lost his hot-line to the levers of power.

    However, there is a serious issue here. The people of the Causeway Coast can have the benefit for this one generation, or for perpetuity. If they fancy the former, there’s a taster of the breeze-block bungalow culture to be had all along the Donegal coast. If that’s what you want, go for it. Just don’t expect the rest of us to come to admire it, to spend money looking at it.

    Alternatively, there has to be a stand-still on all development in the rural area. That does not mean that existing centres (Bushmills, Portrush and Ballycastle were obvious and deserving examples when I was through them last New Year) cannot be exploited. That is, after all, where the parallel attractions, the hotel developments, the tourist-facilities and the consequent employment should be.

    At the same time, can we have a more sensible approach to mass-transit? We want every extra million visitors a year to this area: we do not want each half-million car-journey that implies.

    Despite it all, I believe Sweeney may be sincere when he talks about improving the locality. If he has the resources, and the will, here’s his chance to prove it. Heaven knows that too many of the towns of North Antrim, and beyond, need that kind of enlightened loving care. Then we can all applaud the deservedly Sir Seymour.

    Meanwhile, all kudos to Nevin for his efforts. A few more Nevs, a few fewer grabs, and more of Northern Ireland would be habitable again.