It great to hear that next week’s Irish Open at Royal Portrush has officially sold out on both the Saturday and Sunday – the first time in the history of the European Tour that it has had to close ticket sales for any day of a regular Tour event. That’s a really positive indicator of the health of the game of golf in the UK in general and Northern Ireland in particular.
Less welcome is news of a legal challenge by the National Trust over plans for a £100 million golf resort at Runkerry on Northern Ireland’s north coast. To be known as Bushmills Dunes Golf Resort and Spa, the project is expected to create 360 new jobs.
Planning permission was granted in February but the National Trust is seeking leave for a judicial review of the decision. Now Unesco, the UN body in charge of heritage, has entered the row. It has asked its World Heritage Committee to request the UK government put a stop to the development before a ‘full assessment’ of its potential impact upon the nearby ‘Giants Causeway’ the only World Heritage site in Northern Ireland.
This project has been 12 years in the planning and, strongly believing that over a very long time and a very lengthy process they have complied with best practice, Northern Ireland ministers are said to be furious at these attempts to stop a key tourism development in the “midst of the worst recession in living memory” and the announcement just days before the Irish Open attract tens of thousands of visitors to the area.
We hope that these matters can be quickly resolved. Golf development and preservation of coastal beauty spots do not have to be in conflict.
Geoff Russell, Editor