£9m Portrush activity centre step closer to council approval
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