Runkerry golf resort plan 'has foundered'
Plans for a £100m golf resort near the Giant's Causeway have foundered, according to informed sources.
Land earmarked for the controversial Bushmills Dunes scheme on County Antrim's north coast is in the process of being sold to an alternative buyer.
The resort proposal, which included a five-star hotel and 70 golf lodges, had attracted strong opposition.
Environmentalists objected because of its proximity to the causeway, which is a UNESCO world heritage site.
Last year, the National Trust, which owns the Giant's Causeway, failed in a legal challenge to block the Bushmills Dunes golf course plan.
In July earlier this year, the businessman behind the proposed resort, Dr Alistair Hanna, died.
According to informed sources, the project has had difficulty raising the necessary finance.
It is understood the Hanna plan could not raise sufficient money to buy the 350 acres of land to build the resort.
A final deadline for the sale of the land to the group passed without the purchase being completed.
The golf course land then went back on the market.
It is now in the process of being sold to one of Northern Ireland's most successful businessmen, Dr Peter FitzGerald.
He is the founder and managing director of the diagnostic company, Randox Laboratories, based in Crumlin, County Antrim.
It is understood Dr Fitzgerald is in the process of buying the neighbouring Dundarave estate, which has an asking price of £5m.
It comprises a stately home and 550 acres. The estate is being sold by Sir Malcolm Macnaghten, who also owns the land earmarked for the golf course.
The additional 350 acres set aside for the golf course has now been included in the overall proposed land sale to Randox.
'Companies House documents'
A spokesperson for Randox said: "We are unable to provide any further detail, at this time."
However, according to documents at Companies House, Randox is in the process of buying land in the area.
The new owner will decide on what is to become of the 350 acres set aside for the golf club.
Asked about the Bushmills Dunes project, a spokesperson for the group behind the golf scheme said: "For a number of reasons, I simply cannot comment at this time."
The Bushmills Dunes website still reads: "The project is taking shape on the north coast of Northern Ireland."
Full planning approval for the golf course was granted in February of 2013, but work on the project failed to start.
"Since then it has gone very, very quiet. The land has had nothing on it," said Bushmills estate agent, Terry Dobbin.
"We had hoped to see, maybe some access roads or sight lines, but unfortunately there has been nothing."
He added: "The feeling around the town is that it is not going to go ahead, which is a big disappointment."
North Antrim MP Ian Paisley jnr said: "Obviously the project retains full permission and anyone purchasing the site could engage in a process of realising that permission.
"However I am in no doubt that if the lengthy period of planning permission had been halved the resort could already have been built."
However, Anna Lo of the Alliance Party said: "It will be good news for the local environment if plans for a golf resort are now completely scrapped.
"While I support the redevelopment of the north coast in principle, it must be done in a considered way that protects the environment."
James Orr of Friends of the Earth said: "If the reports are true we will be greatly relieved for the sake the economy, the unique wilderness around the Giant's causeway and for future generations."