THE development of a new 70-bedroom hotel in Downpatrick is a feasible proposition, according to a new report.
Consultants working on behalf of Newry, Mourne and Down Council have concluded the town centre development is a runner, and the local authority has this week agreed to seek expressions of interest from the private sector.
It is hoped work can begin shortly on a detailed business case to identify all funding avenues and while the local council will not be making any financial contribution towards a new hotel, it has offered to help with the planning process and identify potential town centre sites.
Last year, council officials working closely with Tourism NI and Invest Northern Ireland identified the need for more town centre bed spaces and on the back of this agreed to commission a feasibility study on a new hotel. This process ended recently with the consultants’ report concluding a new hotel with between 50 and 70 bedrooms is a feasible proposition.
Members of the local authority’s Enterprise, Regeneration and Tourism Committee were told on Monday the challenge facing the organisation will be finding a funding mechanism which “incentivises” the private sector to get involved and build the new hotel.
Committee chairman, councillor Robert Burgess, said the consultants’ conclusion that a new town centre hotel in Downpatrick is feasible will not come as a surprise to many.
“Many hope a new hotel will be built, but this will require private sector investment and I hope there will be a provider interested in investing in Downpatrick to take this project through to fruition,” he said. “Nothing will happen unless a site can be made available and funding secured to build the hotel.”
Councillor Dermot Curran is pleased the council is working to help secure a potential investor.
He agrees that while there is bed and breakfast accommodation and two existing hotels in Downpatrick, one in English Street and the other at Ballydugan, there is a need for new town centre provision.
“A new hotel will help increase visitor numbers and provide a significant boost for the local economy. I hope work will continue to offer prospective investors every encouragement and assistance to come to Downpatrick,” said councillor Curran.
“Newry, Mourne and Down Council is placing increasing emphasis on developing the district’s tourism product and a new Downpatrick hotel is a key component of this initiative.The town has a lot to offer, but the Achilles heal is lack of bed space.”
Last week, councillor Curran joined South Down MP Margaret Ritchie and Colin McGrath MLA for a visit to the former Danske Bank premises in Downpatrick which he believes offers potential for a small boutique hotel development with up to 15 bedrooms. He said while such an investment would be welcomed, Downpatrick requires much larger hotel provision.
Councillor Curran added: “A new hotel can create jobs, attract more visitors and provide the boost the economy needs. I hope to meet shortly with Tourism NI chief executive John McGrillen to see what assistance may be available for prospective town centre hotel developers.
“I would appeal to anyone who owns any town centre land or property which could potentially house a new hotel to get in touch with council officials.”