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Last Updated: Monday, 14 August 2006, 15:21 GMT 16:21 UK
Grand plans to restore stately home
Ambitious plans to restore one of Northern Ireland's most famous stately homes have been unveiled.

It is aimed to provide tourist, community and heritage facilities on the site of the historic Lissan House near Cookstown.

Lissan House near Cookstown
Lissan House was in the Staples family for 400 years

The building narrowly missed winning a multi-million pound prize in the BBC's Restoration programme in 2003.

The current plans involve the country house and its surrounding lands, with the possibility of a hotel on the site.

Environment Minister David Cairns said he was sympathetic to the restoration plans.

Speaking after a tour of the site, he said: "There's lot of other projects wanting money as well, so it's a question of getting the right package together.

"But the people I have spoken to have really got the place's best interest at heart.

"But more than that, they have also got a very professional attitude towards putting together the right package that will keep it going."

Lissan House had been the Staples family home for 400 years - the longest occupation by any single family of a country house in Ireland.

Hazel Radcliffe-Dolling had been the last surviving member of the Staples family, until her death in April at the age of 84.

Hazel had lived on her own with no electricity, except for that generated by a water wheel.

She entrusted the land and buildings to the Friends of Lissan Trust.

Jeremy Gough is a nephew of a late owner
Jeremy Gough is a nephew of a late owner

Michael McGuckin, chief executive of Cookstown District Council and a member of the trust, said he believed money would be available for the project.

"We have spent some time looking at the opportunities, developing the business plan, looking at the options," he said.

He said the options included "accommodation in the house, allied with self-catering, and also bringing in small business activity around the farmyard".

Jeremy Gough, a nephew of Hazel, said the plans were very exciting.

"Certainly it was her wishes that the whole place should be vibrant and being used by the local community.

"The plans as they now stand show the best opportunity for that."

The house was awarded a blue plaque to mark it as the former residence of the artist, Sir Robert Ponsonby Staples.


VIDEO AND AUDIO NEWS
See more about the restoration plans



SEE ALSO
Historic home is runner-up
15 Sep 03 |  Northern Ireland
Baths win 3.4m Restoration final
14 Sep 03 |  Entertainment
Restoration show's 3m boost
18 Aug 03 |  Entertainment
Viewers vote to save heritage
18 Jul 03 |  Entertainment

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