A decision to refuse permission for a luxury multi-million pound hotel and spa at Kilkeel – which would create around 70 jobs – has been overturned.
Infrastructure Minister John O’Dowd has now directed that the development – at Mourne Park House – should be allowed to proceed.
A proposal to resurrect the fire-ravaged Mourne Park House in Kilkeel as a 126-bedroom hotel and spa – at a cost in the region of £13 million –was rejected by planners in February of last year.
The application – which was submitted in July of the previous year – had been turned down after a meeting of Newry, Mourne and Down District Council’s planning committee.
As Armagh I reported at the time, the development would was tipped to create in the region of 70 new jobs upon completion, with many more during the construction phases.
But it was almost totally destroyed by fire almost 10 years ago, with little but the main stone walls left standing. At that time a 10-year programme of restoration had just completed and proposals were being finalised for it to be converted into a boutique-style hotel.
Owner Marion Scarlett Needham Russell had huge plans for the site, which would have involved both refurbishment and new building work.
The overall development is for the creation of a new luxury hotel incorporating a spa, function room, restaurant and manager’s quarters, together with “associated facilities” as well as car parking provision for staff and guests.
The spa facilities were are to be located within an existing walled garden.
The existing property boasts floor space in excess of 38,000 sq ft but the new buildings will see the proposed hotel almost three times that as floorspace is intended of close to 137,000 sq ft.
No objections had been received, but the professional planning case officer’s report – which was endorsed by council – concluded that “the proposal if permitted would have a detrimental impact on the essential character, setting and appearance of the listed buildings of Mourne Park”.
Two applications had been received.
One, for full approval, was for the “creation of a new luxury hotel incorporating a spa, function room, restaurant, managers quarters, associated facilities and car parking, by way of change of use and refurbishment of existing listed private residence and provision of a new build extension, gate lodge, associated site works and minor realignment of the existing access gates at the White Water entrance”.
The second, for listed building consent, details the “refurbishment of and extension to existing fire damaged Mourne Park House and associated outbuildings to create a new luxury hotel comprising of hotel bedrooms, restaurant, function room, spa facilities, associated car parking and site works”.
Minister O’Dowd confirmed today (Thursday) that he has now approved planning permission for the redevelopment of Mourne Park House, Kilkeel into a luxury hotel.
The full planning application and listed building consent were ‘called in’ by the Department in January 2022 .
Minister O’Dowd outlined his reasoning for the decision, saying: “I have carefully considered all the evidence and the report and advice from my officials and on balance I believe that this development will bring significant economic and social benefits to the Mourne area, boosting tourism and creating employment opportunities for the local community.”
A Notice of Opinion to approve will issue to Newry, Mourne and Down District Council and the applicant in the near future.