The National Trust goes to the High Court in Belfast, 9-11 January 2013, to challenge through judicial review the granting of planning permission for a golf resort at Runkerry. This significant development is in the identified setting of the Giant’s Causeway and Causeway Coast World Heritage Site, Northern Ireland’s only such site.
In 2007, an application for a proposed golf resort was submitted to the Department of Environment, Planning Service.
The applicant Mr Alistair Hanna, is a former resident of Northern Ireland, now residing in America.
The application is for a proposed golf resort including 18-hole championship golf course, clubhouse, golf academy incorporating driving range, a 3-hole practice facility, 120 bedroom hotel incorporating conference facilities and spa, 75 guest suites/lodges, and associated car parking, maintenance building and landscaping. The proposed development is to be built along the Whitepark Road and Causeway Road to the north of Bushmills and to the east of Portballintrae, County Antrim.
The application was designated one of major importance under Article 31 of the Planning (NI) order on 13 June 2007.
In 2011, Minister Attwood was appointed Minister for the Environment. He announced his intention to expedite outstanding planning applications and clear the backlog to reinvigorate the regional economy.
On 21 February 2012, Minister Attwood announced that after due consideration he intended to approve the Bushmills Dunes planning application. Planning permission was formally granted on 29 March 2012.
The Trust expressed its disappointment at the decision, confirming that it had consistently opposed the planning application, reiterating its serious concerns about the impact on the landscape, the environmental impacts, and the potential threat to the World Heritage Site designation.
The National Trust was granted leave for a judicial review on 27 June 2012.
The judicial review is timetabled for 3 days, running in the High Court in Belfast from 9-11 January 2013. The outcome of the hearing will be known later in the year.
In December, we wrote to our 60,000 Northern Ireland members explaining this significant development is in the identified setting of the Giant’s Causeway and Causeway Coast World Heritage Site, Northern Ireland’s only such site. We told members:
‘World Heritage Site status is the highest conservation and heritage accolade that any place can achieve, and is awarded by the international body, UNESCO. The land on which this would be built has been identified in the draft Northern Area plan as an area that should be protected and where such development should not take place. This is based on the strong recommendation from UNESCO that there should be a buffer zone to protect the landscape that surrounds this World Heritage Site. In July 2012, UNESCO formally requested the Government to ‘halt the proposed development ….until its impact on the Outstanding Universal Value of the World Heritage Site property has been assessed.’
‘As the guardians of the Giant’s Causeway World Heritage Site, we have a duty to care for it for ever. This is the context in which we have taken this judicial review.
‘The Giant’s Causeway is known and loved globally, positioning Northern Ireland on the world stage. It is fundamental to the local economy. We believe that such a development in this protected landscape is wrong – once it’s gone it’s gone. If this development is allowed to proceed in this special place, then the message is being despatched that nowhere in Northern Ireland, no matter how special or protected, is safe from development.’
There’s a useful timeline on the Trust’s care for the Giant’s Causeway here.
Update: timeline link added Friday 11 January 2012.
Note: As we’re in an important stage of this legal process we can’t comment on the particulars of the case so comments have been disabled for this post.