A MULTI-MILLION pound hotel development in Castledawson got the go-ahead at Magherafelt council this week - amid controversy as some politicians remain steadfast in their opposition to the plans.
DUP councillor Pat McLean argued that the hotel’s positioning means it could become a “glorified nightclub”, while SDLP councillor Jim Campbell argued further delays to the application would be unfair to the applicant.
Former Mid Ulster MP William McCrea hit back at claims he held up the development by opposing it a number of years ago.
The sitting South Antrim MP was responding to criticism from SDLP Deputy Leader Patsy McGlone who last week told the Mail that it was Rev McCrea’s “muddling” in the original planning application three years ago, coupled with the then Environment Minister’s “dithering” that held the plans up.
The hotel plans, submitted by the O’Kane family, were lodged with Magherafelt council back in 2008 and approved by both council and planning authorities but an objection from Mr McCrea brought a halt to proceedings. He and his son Ian, the current DUP MLA for Mid Ulster, lobbied on behalf of nearby land owners to stop building the hotel.
Since the most recent Assembly election however, Poots has been succeeded in his role as Environment Minister by Alex Attwood and the plans have been approved. Mr McCrea maintains the decision is still incorrect and said he does not believe the development should go ahead at the site in Castledawson.
He said: “I made representation as a local councillor concerning the hotel development near Castledawson, because serious planning concerns were raised with me. In all my over 37 years as a Magherafelt Councillor I never allowed the ordinary citizens rights to be walked over by anyone but always sought to earnestly give everyone a hearing.
“I believe on planning grounds that the original decision by the Planning Service was correct and that the present decision by the minister to approve is wrong.”
Mr McCrea also hit out at Mr McGlone’s claims he was responsible for stalling job creation opportunities in the area.
“I think it is rather rich the SDLP bemoaning a delay in job creation whenever that party has little record of job creation anywhere in the province,” he said. “If this decision is typical of Minister Attwood’s future decisions I feel that the courts will often be in session”.
Mr McGlone said last week: “That a very substantial development, which could have made jobs and investment, took so long is ridiculous.” But Ian McCrea MLA said the same issues which existed years ago still exist today, claiming the hotel should not be sited in that location and goes against planning policy.