Gransha plan can help solve hotel dearth: Diver

THE Londonderry developer behind a huge new hotel and superstore development at Gransha last week submitted a range of documentation including new and revised drawings in a bid to persuade the planners to give him the green light.

The 100-bed hotel and supermarket plan was not included in Planning Minister Alex Attwood’s announcement of major retail and mixed-use approvals and refusals prior to Christmas.

John McGinnis, Chief Executive of the Eglinton construction firm, McGinnis Group has also garnered the support of Waterside SDLP Councillor Gerard Diver who has argued the scheme will help address Londonderry’s “urgent need for more hotel provision.”

He says the proposed scheme in the Waterside will provide almost 500 new operational and construction jobs.

Caw Properties Ltd. the company set up by McGinnis to progress the Gransha site submitted new documentation to the planners on January 4 and January 9.

Significantly, the plan was not considered as part of Mr Attwood’s announcements on Article 31 applications in Londonderry just before Christmas.

Mr Attwood said then that there were four other applications in the system and that he hoped to be in a position to announce these soon.

Mr Attwood’s party colleague Mr Diver is a strong supporter of the development.

He wrote to the Minister in the autumn expressing his “wholehearted support” for the proposal.

“As much as I appreciate the importance of consolidating, protecting and developing our city centre retail offer, my considered view is that the economic salvation of our city centre cannot and should not be dependent upon the provision of large superstores primarily selling food,” he argued.

He went on to write: “With the UK City of culture 2013 almost upon us, and the expected growth in our tourism sector over the next few years there is an urgent need for more hotel provision in the Derry area.

“As this development includes a hotel it can only be of assistance in addressing that need in the obvious provisions of much needed employment opportunities both during and afterwards through the operation of the hotel and the store.”

However, since the plans were lodged in 2011 fifteen letters of objection have been lodged mainly by smaller retailers in the wider Londonderry area.

Northern Ireland Retail Trade Association (NIRTA) Chief Executive Glyn Roberts “objected strenuously” on behalf of the group’s members.

Supervalu franchise holders in Limavady, Dungiven and Shantallow also objected as did Centra franchise holders at Trench Road and Dungiven and a Spar in Strathfoyle.

A number of the objectors were identically “desperately worried about the future of my business” and a number also similarly sited a Lisney town centre vacancy survey in their letters of protests. Niche Drinks said it’s ‘edge of town’ development at Rossdowney should be given priority over ‘out of town developments.’

A solicitor for Tesco also objected on the grounds that it would impact its store at Lisnagelvin.

The Foyle Civic Trust objected to the supermarket proposal but were fine with the prospect of a the hotel development providing the site and standard were appropriate.

And last April the Gransha Project board - incorporating DSHSSPS and WHSCT representatives - objected to the development despite changes made by the developer. It said it wanted to look at the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) in detail.