Proposed Golf Resort near Giants Causeway Gets Go-Ahead

A legal challenge by the National Trust against a proposed golf resort near the famed Giants Causeway on Northern Ireland's North Coast was dismissed by a judge February 27.

In throwing out the challenge, Justice Weatherup endorsed a decision made last year by Northern Ireland Environment Minister Alex Attwood to approve the 100-million project, which has been in planning for over 10 years.

Backed by Dr. Alistair Hanna, a Northern Ireland businessman based in the U.S., the Bushmills Dunes Golf and Spa resort will be built just outside the village of Bushmills, in County Antrim. It could create 360 jobs, with an estimated 300 more involved in the construction.

Dr. Hanna was not in the courtroom when the decision was rendered, but he said work on the project would begin as soon as possible. If all goes well, Dr. Hanna said that the golf course and adjoining hotel could be completed in late 2015.

In a statement, Dr. Hanna said: "Not only will the resort provide a world-class golf links course and facilities attracting thousands of visitors each year, it will also protect the vulnerable topography of the coastal area which has been left vulnerable following decades of neglect."

The Trust filed a legal challenge to Attwood's prior approval, claiming the project would have a huge environmental impact on one of the country's top tourist attractions. The Trust said, though it is not opposed to golf or development, it is against the project as it's located within the four-kilometer protection zone that UNESCO has placed around the stones, which are a World Heritage Site.

The Giants Causeway is a spectacular area containing over 40,000 interlocking basalt columns, the result of an ancient volcanic eruption.

The National Trust was disappointed by the ruling, saying it's convinced a massive development near the Giants Causeway is wrong. "We still believe that if a development of this scale does go ahead in this location, the message is that nowhere in Northern Ireland, no matter how important or protected, is safe from development," the Trust said in a statement.

"The ruling today has served to highlight aspects of very serious concern for those partners involved in the care and protection of the World Heritage Site. It is essential that we work together to get planning policy right in Northern Ireland to ensure that appropriate development can happen, but not at the expense of our beautiful landscapes and historic places.

"There are also significant issues regarding the relationship between government in Northern Ireland, Great Britain and UNESCO that must be addressed to ensure the protection of our World Heritage Site for the long term."