£9m Portrush ac­tiv­ity cen­tre step closer to coun­cil ap­proval

Belfast Telegraph - Business Telegraph - - Front Page - BY EMMA DEIGHAN

A PRO­POSAL to re­model a Portrush ac­tiv­ity cen­tre to in­clude a surf fa­cil­ity, in­door recre­ation, restau­rant and pos­si­bly ac­com­mo­da­tion has taken a ma­jor step for­ward.

Plan­ning of­fi­cials at Cause­way Coast and Glens Bor­ough Coun­cil have rec­om­mended ap­prov­ing the ma­jor £9m re­vamp of the for­mer Dun­luce Cen­tre.

The once coun­cil-owned fa­cil­ity ceased oper­at­ing in 2013 and was sold in 2016 for around £1m.

The devel­op­ment, which will be un­der­taken by 360 Leisure, and is de­scribed by UUP Coun­cil­lor Nor­man Hil­lis as “colos­sal”, had been stuck in the plan­ning process.

But plan­ning of­fi­cials have now rec­om­mended ap­proval for the project ahead of next week’s plan­ning com­mit­tee.

The re­port is ex­pected to be given the for­mal seal of ap­proval by coun­cil­lors at their monthly meet­ing.

Speak­ing about the rec­om­men­da­tion, Cllr Hil­lis said: “I’m pleased that it’s moved on to the plan­ning com­mit­tee.

“The coun­cil has been anx­iously wait­ing for the whole plan to progress.

“It is dis­ap­point­ing that it has taken so long. Orig­i­nally part of the scheme was to open in 2017 with the sec­ond phase open­ing this year and the devel­op­ment fi­nalised in 2019, but there have been de­lays and plan­ning hold­ing things back.

“It’s good to see we are at this stage and pro­vid­ing the plan­ning com­mit­tee with a rec­om­men­da­tion so that we can go ahead and get some­thing done.”

Prior to the sale, it was be­lieved the cen­tre was a fi­nan­cial drain on the lo­cal coun­cil with re­ports that it cost £45,000 an­nu­ally to open over an 11-week sea­son.

Should plans be ap­proved for the once thriv­ing Dun­luce Cen­tre later this month, 100 jobs could be cre­ated upon com­ple­tion.

The fa­cil­ity, which closed due to dwin­dling vis­i­tor num­bers, cost £3.3m to build back in 1993 but the in­vest­ment to con­vert it into a new cen­tre, should plan­ning go ahead, will be triple the orig­i­nal cost of the site at around £9m.

Plans sub­mit­ted by Belfast firm MBA Plan­ning pro­pose “re­mod­elling, re­fur­bish­ment and ex­ten­sion” to the ex­ist­ing build­ing with recre­ation ar­eas com­pris­ing a surf cen­tre, wet play area, a clip and climb-style climb­ing wall, a ‘Lit­tle World of Play’ (a small city setup), restau­rant and bar, cof­fee dock, ex­ter­nal seat­ing, and com­mu­nity spa­ces.

The ex­te­rior of the build­ing will also be re­worked with re­cladding and “soft land­scap­ing”. A sculp­ture in­stal­la­tion is also part of the plans.

Cllr Hil­lis said: “It’s a colos­sal in­vest­ment and we be­lieve the de- veloper is go­ing to put his money where his mouth is.

“If it gets plan­ning per­mis­sion at the end of this month, which I think it will, it’s go­ing to be some­thing unique in North­ern Ire­land and an­other ma­jor added at­trac­tion to the tourism of­fer­ing in Portrush and on the Cause­way Coast.”

Ahead of the com­mit­tee meet­ing, in­fra­struc­ture au­thor­i­ties have also ap­proved pro­pos­als, in­clud­ing Trans­port NI, NI Wa­ter, En­vi­ron­men­tal Health, His­toric En­vi­ron­ment Divi­sion and DFI Rivers. In a doc­u­ment, plan­ning of­fi­cials said: “The pro­posed devel­op­ment is con­sid­ered ac­cept­able in prin­ci­ple as the site has an es­tab­lished use as an en­ter­tain­ment cen­tre. The scale, de­sign and fin­ishes of the pro­posed ex­ten­sions are sen­si­tive to the char­ac­ter of the area sur­round­ing the site. The im­pact on amenity of neigh­bours has been con­sid­ered and it is con­sid­ered to cause no detri­men­tal im­pact. Hav­ing re­gards to the North­ern Area Plan 2016, the SPPS, rel­e­vant plan­ning pol­icy state­ments and other ma­te­rial con­sid­er­a­tions, the pro­posal is con­sid­ered ac­cept­able. Ap­proval is rec­om­mended.”

The Dun­luce Cen­tre was put on the mar­ket by the lo­cal coun­cil with the stip­u­la­tion that a buyer must demon­strate in­ter­ests in de­vel­op­ing the site as a tourism fa­cil­ity.

Added Cllr Hil­lis: “The coun­cil ran it for years, we lost money on it and then put it up for sale with ob­vi­ous re­stric­tions. This de­vel­oper came up with the most ex­cit­ing idea. The only bad point is it has taken years to get any­where.”

It is be­lieved that the scheme will ben­e­fit from an ur­ban devel­op­ment grant from a Depart­ment for Com­mu­ni­ties fund, a £17m Ex­ec­u­tive-en­dorsed ini­tia­tive to help re­gen­er­ate the town ahead of the 2019 Open at Royal Portrush.

Pic­ture the sce­nario: a prospec­tive pur­chaser has in­structed a sur­veyor to pre­pare a re­port. The re­port shows that the prop­erty is struc­turally sound and the pur­chaser pur­chases the prop­erty on the strength of the sur­vey. Af­ter mov­ing in, the pur­chaser dis­cov­ers de­fects or other ad­verse is­sues that were not re­vealed by the sur­vey.

What can the pur­chaser do? The first step is of­ten to as­sess the level of de­fects and whether or not bring­ing a claim against the sur­veyor is cost-ef­fec­tive, ie the po­ten­tial level of dam­ages awarded needs to out­weigh the costs of bring­ing the claim such as le­gal fees and other dis­burse­ments. Some­times the le­gal costs may be cov­ered by le­gal ex­penses in­sur­ance, un­der a house con­tents in­sur­ance pol­icy for ex­am­ple.

If the first hur­dle of fund­ing a po­ten­tial claim can be over­come, li­a­bil­ity needs to be es­tab­lished and then the is­sue of dam­ages needs to be agreed.

The very re­cent English case of Moore and an­other v Na­tional West­min­ster Bank UK Plc may be a good in­di­ca­tor as to how dis­putes of this na­ture are de­ter­mined.

The plain­tiffs ap­plied for a mort­gage to pur­chase a buy-to-let flat in Devon. They had specif­i­cally in­structed Natwest to carry out a sur­vey of the prop­erty. The bank how­ever did not do so but ap­proved their loan ap­pli­ca­tion. The plain­tiffs in­cor­rectly as­sumed the sur­vey had been com­pleted and there were no is­sues re­vealed by the sur­vey, ie the prop­erty was good to buy.

Once they pur­chased the prop­erty how­ever they found out to their hor­ror that the prop­erty re­quired sub­stan­tial re­pairs to the tune of £115,000. This was around the same price they pur­chased the house for. At court, the judge found the bank li­able for breach of con­tract and dam­ages were to be assessed to the full cost of the re­pairs re­quired, as op­posed to the diminu­tion in value of the prop­erty (which would have re­sulted in lesser dam­ages be­ing awarded to the pur­chasers).

The bank ap­pealed on the ba­sis that a sur­vey had not been pre­pared and this was dif­fer­ent than a neg­li­gent sur­vey hav­ing been pro­duced. The judge ac­cepted this ar­gu­ment to a de­gree be­cause the pur­chaser would not be en­ti­tled to any ad­di­tional com­pen­sa­tion if the pur­chasers were able to demon­strate they would never have bought the prop­erty, but for the sur­veyor’s neg­li­gence.

How­ever, the ap­peal was ul­ti­mately dis­missed on the ba­sis that the judge was en­ti­tled to cal­cu­late dam­ages on the al­ter­na­tive ba­sis of cost of cure as op­posed to diminu­tion in value.

Com­men­tary on this de­ci­sion so far sug­gests that the de­fault mea­sure of diminu­tion in value as es­tab­lished in an ear­lier case of ‘Philips v Ward’, nev­er­the­less still stands as good law. Se­condly it ap­pears that the court is en­ti­tled to as­sess such diminu­tion in value in the same sum as the cost of re­pair. The cost of re­pair how­ever may be more, or less than the diminu­tion in value.

Ul­ti­mately if a pur­chaser buys a de­fec­tive prop­erty upon reliance of a neg­li­gent sur­vey, they are un­likely to re­cover more than the dif­fer­ence be­tween what they paid and its value in de­fec­tive con­di­tion.

How­ever, given the out­come of the above de­ci­sion, sur­vey­ors and lenders in sim­i­lar cir­cum­stances will need to pro­vide con­vinc­ing as­sess­ments of diminu­tion in value or oth­er­wise sat­isfy the court that the loss to the pur­chasers is sub­stan­tially less than the cost of re­pair. Fail­ure to do so may re­sult in the neg­li­gent party pay­ing out more than was in­tended.

THE Belfast premises of the for­mer Bull and Ram restau­rant has gone on the mar­ket with a price tag of £285,000.

The eatery on Univer­sity Road in the south of the city closed its doors sud­denly in May this year, just days af­ter its sis­ter restau­rant in Bal­ly­nahinch pulled down its shut­ters.

The sud­den clo­sure, an­nounced via Face­book, was met with shock in the Belfast hos­pi­tal­ity in­dus­try.

It came just eight months af­ter the well-re­viewed restau­rant opened its doors and just a fort­night af­ter it lifted a num­ber of in­dus­try awards.

The restau­rant had been cel­e­brated by food crit­ics from both here and Lon­don.

At the time a spokes­woman for the premises said: “No de­ci­sion has been made if this is per­ma­nent clo­sure.”

The 149 sq me­tre prop­erty lo­cated at 44 Univer­sity Road is fully fit­ted for restau­rant use, but is de­scribed in the brochure as a “de­sir­able” prop­erty suit­able for a va­ri­ety of uses”.

The three-storey, mid-ter­raced prop­erty is also grade B2 listed, com­plete with orig­i­nal sash win­dows and shut­ters.

The restau­rant sec­tor has been hit hard in re­cent months, with a num­ber of places in the city cen­tre clos­ing.

How­ever, Belfast Tele­graph restau­rant critic Joris Minne, said that the sec­tor re­mains at­trac­tive to those with some money.

“The Belfast restau­rant sec­tor is tur­bu­lent but by and large re- mains a good bet for in­vestors,” he said. “Restau­ra­teurs and bar own­ers in­clud­ing the big play­ers like Niall Mckenna, Michael Deane, Mark Beirne and Jim Con­lon con­tinue to in­vest heav­ily in their busi­nesses, in­di­cat­ing a high con­fi­dence level.

“The Bull and Ram site should be an at­trac­tive propo­si­tion as it has been home to a se­ries of suc­cess­ful busi­nesses.”

An artist’s im­pres­sion of what the re­mod­elled Dun­luce Cen­tre will look like in Portrush

Li­a­bil­ity needs to be es­tab­lished when a sur­veyor’s house re­port is be­lieved to be in­ac­cu­rate

The for­mer restau­rant closed down in May of this year

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