Officials probed over delay on Downpatrick hotel plans

Officials probed over delay on Downpatrick hotel plans

12 September 2018

OFFICIALS from two government agencies are to be asked to immediately respond to a request from local planners to comment on plans for a new multi-million pound hotel in Downpatrick.

The Department of Infrastructure and the Environment Agency are among a number of statutory consultees asked to comment on plans to redevelop the former Abbey Lodge site at the Belfast Road to provide a new 51-bedroom hotel.

Details of the proposed development by Inch Abbey Holdings Limited were made public in November last year but planning permission paving the way for construction work to start still hasn’t been secured.

Members of Newry, Mourne and Down Council’s Enterprise, Regeneration and Tourism Committee were told on Monday that planners cannot make their final determination on the proposed development until the two government agencies formally respond.

Nine years ago, a property developer came close to investing in a new 80-bedroom hotel at the Belfast Road site, but the proposal fell through due to the adverse economic circumstances owing to the recession. 

The site was sold several years ago to a local businessman with architects subsequently drawing up plans for a new 6,400 square metre development which would include function rooms and a health spa.

There were also plans for swimming pool, alongside a jacuzzi and sauna, with changing facilities, a gym and fitness rooms.

The new hotel would include a bar, restaurant, reception area and conference facilities with the accommodation centred around a landscaped courtyard and would be finished in stone and slate, with parking for almost 200 vehicles alongside a dedicated parking area for coaches.

Downpatrick councillor Dermot Curran says he hopes the government agencies which have not yet responded to the planners’ request will do do immediately.

He said he was surprised to learn at Monday’s meeting that neither the Department of Infrastructure nor the Environment Agency have responded.

“I have asked senior council officials to contact both organisations for a response. It is my understanding that they were contacted some considerable time ago but have yet to respond to planners.

“I cannot understand the hold up as there was previously a hotel on this particular site. Access is not onto the main busy Belfast Road either and I hope government officials will act swiftly to ensure this application can be signed off and construction work can start.”

Cllr Curran said the new hotel will help create jobs in the construction industry, provide a boost for local builders’ suppliers and pave the way for a range of new jobs within the building itself. 

“New hotel provision can act as a catalyst for additional private sector investment in the area which is very welcome. We have a number of excellent hotels in the Downpatrick area but I believe that we need more to satisfy increasing demand for overnight accommodation,” he said.

He added: “The redevelopment of the former Abbey Lodge site would complement existing hotel provision in the area and provide the town with a significant economic boost, encouraging more people to stay and explore what the area has to offer.

“Tourism is the district’s main growth area and we need to do all we can to assist its development, creating new jobs and boosting our economy.”