Giant’s Causeway dispute heightens

The plot thickens over the controversial plan to build a golf course and hotel complex  at Runkerry just outside the perimeter of the Giant’s Causeway World Heritage site. Now UNESCO which awards this designation  is weighing in behind the National Trust to try to stop it. From memory this is land the behind the lovely beach that stretches from just outside Portballintrae beginning at the brackish outflow of the river Bush. Would the beach be closed off too I wonder? The local weekenders won’t be pleased if it is/ (nevin if he’s reading this will put me right on all this no doubt).

The dispute is a classic case of development versus heritage on a coast which so easily could become wrecked and yet is such a joy to visit. Personally I’d love to see an upgrade of the sprawl behind Royal Portrush and the rebirth of the shabby town itself. They  put a brave face on it for the Irish Open. Good luck to them in their bid for the British Open  but it still seems a tall order.  No doubt developing the Portrush area would be a far more daunting proposition than the spectacular greenfield site along the coast. These projects are never easy, as billionaire Donald Trump is discovering in Aberdeenshire. Will the Ulster natives fare better than the American blow-in? Is there nowhere along the coast to the east a bit where this scheme could be sited?

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  • boondock

    Access to the beach will still be possible. This development has had to deal with every possible dispute and after 10 years its still causing problems!.
    We have the National Trusts bizarre double standards regarding development ie none unless its their own monstrosity of a visitor centre
    ‘New research’ finding extinct bees all of a sudden- someone should tell them that the vast majority of the dunescape will be retained so the bees will be happy I mean its not like they are building a railway line over it oh wait a minute.
    Unesco dont seem to have any consistency and seem happy with a number of other ”heritage sites” having all sorts of modern interventions next to them.
    With the current economic gloom any investment should be welcomed as for The Open coming to Portrush there will be no chance until some quality accommodation ever becomes available in the area ie a half decent hotel!

  • theelk11

    Darren Clarke currently fronting up an ad campaign for a company selling cut price golfing breaks. If you do a quick search you can find golf resorts all over uk and ireland offering deals which can only have at best tiny margins.
    This market appears saturated at the moment and with 4 top class links courses within a twenty minute drive already competition will be fierce.
    As for jobs, these will often be minimum wage service jobs with no real prospect of advancement.
    There is a fear from the executive of appearing anti business in the current economic climate which not only blinds it to the possible damage to a world heritage site but to the economic viability of the project.
    Ian jr is all over this something that always makes me wonder what is really the deal. What’s the bet he (or his wife) ends up with some of the proposed lodges to rent, bought off plan in a totally legal way of course.

  • jagmaster

    Funny how Alex Attwood condemns plastic bag usage as bad for the environment and slaps a tax on them. And yet has no problems with developers tearing apart the natural landscape with diggers and what not to help the development of an elitist sport and past time.

  • Am Ghobsmacht

    The plans do look quite good I must say.

    But why does an area of outstanding natural beauty and golf courses need another golf course amidst outstanding natural beauty?

    We have everyone up in arms against a biomass reactor (?) (farm sh*t power generator) proposal that will save Herdman’s Mill and create jobs in Sion Mills yet the ‘government’ are 100% behind this scheme purely from the jobs point of view.

    Has anyone broken down exactly this job prediction?

    360 jobs? How many are temporary and how many are long term?

    As a wise bald man once said “Methane cometh from pig sh*t” and that commodity is not affected by riots, bombs or general flegtard/MOPEtard violence. Tourism is.

    If this golf course and all the other courses and sights and wot-not fulfil their potential then how long will it be before we have to sink millions in doing up the roads on the Antrim coast?

    One of those villages (Cushendall?) is a tight squeeze traffic wise at the best of times.

    It was mentioned above about Portrush being a better choice of investment. I agree.

    If they could re-kit the old Traxx night club as a hotel and power wash away the general impoverished British seaside town look as well as protecting the pre-war architecture then it stands a chance of scrubbing up quite nicely.

    If it was more attractive then it stands a chance of catching tourists who are on the tourist route as opposed to just norn ironers who just want to head up for the weekend.

    If it had a decent hotel and incentives and/or ‘rate breaks’ for restaurants then it stands a good chance for people to stay there after using the other THREE golf courses in the area as opposed to corralling them into a remote hotel.

    If they could come up with a plan to refurb Portrush then no doubt Seymour ‘Slippery’ Sweeney would get to stick his snout in that building-trough too.

    So everyone could be a winner.

  • Am Ghobsmacht


    Meant to say, why have jobs at the possible expense of a UNESCO world heritage site when potentially you could have both?

  • sonofstrongbow

    The growth of ‘resort’ holidays may be serving the needs of those who reside the rest of the year in ‘gated communities’. That is ‘gated’ either physically or by property costs. Many such folks are attracted to holidaying hermetically sealed off from the hoi polloi.

    Runkerry is to be a ‘resort’ facility most probably similar to many beach resort hotels in the Caribbean; sans the weather of course. I confess that I’ve holidayed in a couple of such places. During my first stay I didn’t venture outside at all. Everything was catered for within the complex.

    On the second, and last, visit I escaped the luxury gulag to see more of the island. It was a different world with absolutely no sign of trickle down benefits from the 5* luxury on the other side of the fence. It left me feeling uncomfortable and wondering what value the resort brought to the locals. Other than the, I assume, low paid jobs for cleaners, waiting staff etc.

    I’m sure many remember the fanfare that accompanied the opening of the Lough Erne Resort. That turned out well didn’t it (G8 not withstanding)?

    There’s the rub. Should a ‘resort’ not perform financially the owners are forced into offering cut price deals to attract more ‘budget’ visitors. Unfortunately some of the high rollers don’t want to rub up against these folks, perhaps thinking that they take the edge off their luxury idyll.

    As the better off clientele are very mobile they simply move on to the next ‘in’ place leaving l’elephant blanc to forage as best it can.

    Is it not a little strange that a Minister from a party with ‘social’ and ‘labour’ in its title is championing such an elitest facility? Also an Irish nationalist advocate, given the passionate importance of ‘the land’ in the psyche of that creed, fencing off the natural beauty of the island from the common man should jar.

    Perhaps it’s fortunate for Alex that the Bull McCabe does not reside on the North Coast. 😉

  • GEF

    Donald Trump and his golf club organisation already own 14 golf clubs: See all of them here at the bottom of this website.

  • Mourne77

    One of the key differences between the two very large developments is that although both are overtly commercial, the National Trust was largely funded by the taxpayers. This money would have been much better invested in the libraries of the local towns. Green transport could have been supplied to convey visitors from the libraries to the stones. I accept the point about low paid jobs at the golf resort, but at least they would be paid and I assume the resort company will pay tax. The National Trust will not pay tax on its commercial activities and the following article may be informative about their attitude towards paying a living wage.

  • carl marks

    I’m really afraid I’m going to have to agree with SOS (never thought i would say that, am thinking I will have a strong drink tonight),
    But I will go further; these resorts are not making a lot of money (certainly not a big enough percentage of investment) at the moment, so here is a thought.
    If after getting planning permission to build these villas and the golf thing takes a nosedive will the owners be able to apply for a change of use, with all that nasty “site of outstanding natural beauty” nonsense out of the way will they be able to throw up top end (high profit) residential and holiday apartments.
    Just a thought ridiculous i know , property developers would never do anything so devious just to make money!

  • Am Ghobsmacht


    Indeed, SoS made a beauty of a point.

    As for your own theory that is a question well worth putting forward to the planning dept in Moyle or the DOE or even the Ulster Architectural Heritage Society (they know all the tricks of planners and property developers).

    I’m not sure what the planning guidelines are for Moyle council but they seem to be ‘flexible’ at best.
    One only has to glance through a property website to see the near-pride that estate agents take in stating how listed buildings in Bushmills are for sale with full planning permission for ‘luxury flats’.

    If it wasn’t for the crash a large chunk of Bushmills Main st would be demolished.

    “Hey boys! An historic village wi’ nice oul’ buildin’s and great scenery! Strart wreckin and lets build flats!…”

  • “nevin if he’s reading this will put me right on all this no doubt”

    DOE Minister Attwood and the Giants Causeway World Heritage Site

    DOE Minister Attwood Stung by a Bee? 2

    The golf complex is bounded on the west by the River Bush, on the north by the tramway and the Sand Rodden, on the east by Causeway Road and Whitepark Road and on the south by the town and the new sewage works. The ASSI lies between the tramway and Bushfoot/Blackrock Strand. Access to the strand for emergency vehicles is via the Strand Rodden though a key is required to lower a bollard erected by Moyle District Council.

    The open view across the massive Clay Field towards the river as you leave the town will disappear when they erect 75 town-houses and the golf academy. There may well be that number of empty town-houses within walking distance of the complex in Bushmills and Portballintrae. The erection of these town-houses essentially extends the town boundary and puts a coach-and-horses through the 2016 draft area plan:

    Policy COU 12 The Distinctive Landscape Setting of the Giant’s Causeway World Heritage Site. [see links]

    Ditto for the other structures in the complex.

    The Department of Culture Media and Sport is in a bit of a bind because, although it has responsibility for the protection of the WHS and its environs, it no longer has the power to do so as a consequence of devolution [summary of telephone conversation i had with Paul Blaker].

    Minister Attwood appears to have ignored the advice of the Planning Service and the Northern Ireland Environment Agency but he does have the support AFAIK of the bulk of our elected representatives; he and his DOE predecessors in the recent past have essentially treated the status of the WHS with contempt.

    DOE ministers (and local councils), by and large, have been and continue to be a push-over for developers; no part of our ancient, built or scenic heritage is safe in their hands – just take a browse through NALIL blog.

  • Am Ghobsmacht, Moyle doesn’t have a planning department; north coast planning is handled by the Coleraine divisional office of the planning service.

    The decision by a direct rule planning minister to limit building in the countryside is likely to have led to developers purchasing large chunks of property in our towns and villages and levering out local businesses by means of rack-renting. Small businesses in the small towns and villages have also struggled to compete with the multiples that are now a feature of our large towns.

    DRD Roads Service has added to the misery by the use of punitive fines for relatively minor traffic offences and the related introduction of parking charges in car-parks that assisted local business.

    Many former businesses now have their windows adorned by images of the businesses that were formerly part of the life-blood of the local community.

    And let’s not forget the public realm works 🙂

  • Am Ghobsmacht


    Much obliged for the correction.

    I’ve noticed how much of Bushmills is derelict.

    Is it safe to assume that the property market has not adjusted accordingly as the land lords are holding out for when the ‘Bonanza’ time comes?

    How can so many listed buildings get planning permission for demolition?

    Does ‘listed building’ in Northern Ireland mean exactly that? That it’s on a list somewhere and that’s it?

    Not to mention all those proposed apartment dwellings that have been given the green light (at one time or another) for the back gardens of some of the main st properties.

    Anyhoo, back to the topic.

    Does anyone have a break down of what exactly these lauded 350+ jobs are?

  • Mourne77

    Nevin, don’t forget the local community that used to exist at the causeway. Under the heading “Local Human Population” Unesco wrote.

    “The site is uninhabited now, although several small settlements exist immediately inland of the Causeway cliffs. In the 19th century, and up to the acquisition of the site in 1961 by the National Trust, many temporary commercial stalls and huts were either owned or managed by local people for tourists and visitors. A house occupied by a custodian appointed locally to oversee these activities, was located adjacent to the Giant’s Causeway.”

  • Am Ghobsmacht, perhaps a Slugger blogger will explore the intricacies of the planning process at a later date. It’s a bit of a minefield; a prominent legal figure has attempted to bully me on behalf of a wealthy client but I just smiled and continue to quote from official sources.

  • “Will the Ulster natives fare better than the American blow-in?”

    Brian, the ‘For God and Golf’ man is an Ulster native 🙂

  • “don’t forget the local community that used to exist at the causeway”

    Mourne77, the small commercial enterprises that existed on the way down to the stones have long since gone but even their owners lived in the near-by settlements and some of their descendants still do. There were two local shops in the old complex but now there’s just one and it’s built into the side of the National Trust’s Causeway Hotel.

    The homes in Ballytaylor, the approximate location of the new hotel and golf club, were abandoned many years ago. Dan’s Lane, a once favoured resort for courting couples, runs past these homes and a field called Purgatory and formerly crossed the field known as Big Ballytaylor and ended at a stile beside the tramway bridge. Presumably the continued use of such a landmark feature would be frowned upon by the new leaseholders 🙂

  • Am Ghobsmacht


    Intriguing stuff, I have to say.

    I reckon if I found out the truth it would only depress me further.

    Why don’t we just flatten Bushmills and build a Tesco and a KFC?

    It’ll create jobs…

  • Can I recommend a tour of the rolling farmland and some dunes via the Earth facility on the Google map of Bushmills? You can also take a virtual drive ‘up the Plantain’/out Whitepark Road and out Ballaghmore Road to Portballintrae for a current street-level view.