Pressure over golf resort

TENS of thousands of residents have been sent letters urging them to pressure their MLAs over the massive planned golf resort in north Antrim.

The National Trust has written to its membership of around 60,000 in Northern Ireland, calling on them to join it in campaigning against the development at Runkerry.

It branded the planned resort “wrong”, suggesting the 18-hole golf course, hotel and conference complex is too close to Northern Ireland’s only World Heritage Site – the Giant’s Causeway and surrounding coast.

If it were to go ahead, the Trust warned, it would send out a message that “nowhere in Northern Ireland, no matter how special or protected, is safe from development”.

The letter, from the Trust’s Northern Ireland director Heather Thompson finishes by saying: “We need our politicians to focus on securing a planning system which works properly, ensuring it protects this very special place, Northern Ireland, while enabling development in the right places.

“If like us, you are concerned about what is happening, contact your local MLAs and ask them to tell their party and the Northern Ireland Executive that this matters to you.”

The move comes shortly before a judicial review is due to start.

The review seeks to challenge Department of the Environment Minister Alex Attwood’s decision to let the development – specifically referred to as Bushmills Dunes Golf Resort and Spa – go ahead.

That decision was taken on February 21, and the judicial review into it is set for early January in Belfast’s High Court.

The minister’s department said the Trust’s letter to members does not acknowledge the “financial, planning and material contributions” which the government makes to the National Trust.

“It is four weeks to a judicial review hearing on the Runkerry decision and DoE fully respect the authority of the court in this regard,” the department said.

“The minister therefore is rightly constrained in what he can say, including in relation to a National Trust letter which expressly comments on and seeks to campaign around the judicial review hearing.”

But the statement went on to add: “The minister has made it very clear that it is his aim to rigorously protect the natural environment while seeking sustainable job opportunities.

“He believes that environmental issues can be reconciled with economic opportunity.”