Page last updated at 10:34 GMT, Tuesday, 19 May 2009 11:34 UK

Developer ends Causeway challenge

Seymour Sweeney
Seymour Sweeney has dropped a legal challenge

A private developer has dropped a legal challenge to the government's handling of rival bids to build a visitors centre at the Giant's Causeway.

Seymour Sweeney's decision clears the way for work to begin on the National Trust's £18.5m plan for new facilities.

Mr Sweeney wanted to have his own rejected plan for a centre and the rival proposals scrutinised together by a planning appeals body.

On Tuesday his legal team confirmed they would end the challenge.

His case appeared to suffer a setback earlier this year when Environment Minister Sammy Wilson gave approval to the National Trust scheme.

Since then the developer's legal team have been seeking access to Planning Service documents before deciding their next move.


A lawyer for Mr Sweeney confirmed the files had been obtained and were studied by professional advisers.

"While there are some issues that have been raised by the advisers it has been decided not to proceed with the application," he told the High Court.

Controversy has surrounded efforts to erect a new visitors centre to replace the one which burned down in 2000.

Giant's Causeway - pic Jamie Addis
Giant's Causeway is a top tourist attraction

In 2007 the then Environment Minister Arlene Foster announced she was minded to let Mr Sweeney's company Seaport Investments Ltd build it. That decision was reversed months later.

Following today's developments Graham Thompson, the National Trust's project director for the Giant's Causeway, declared plans to have a centre in operation within three years could now advance.

"This will allow the Trust to move forward and deliver new visitor facilities at the Giant's Causeway in line with Sammy Wilson's planning approval of earlier this year," he said.

"This means that the Causeway's World Heritage status can remain intact and that new facilities befitting Northern Ireland's premier tourist attraction can be in place by the end of 2011."

To fund the project, the National Trust has allocated £4m, with an application for another £9m lodged with the Tourist Board.

Heritage Lottery Funds are expected to provide a further £3 million, and the Trust has pledged to come up with the remainder.

"We are confident that the full funding package will be in place by the end of this year, together with all planning conditions fulfilled and agreement reached with Moyle District Council, allowing us to start on site in early 2010," added Mr Thompson.

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