£15m new Ebrington hotel in Derry will bring visitors ‘from all over’

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Derry City and Strabane councillors have gone against a recommendation that planning permission be refused for the removal of conditions on the planning application for a 152 bedroom hotel on the former Ebrington Barracks site which required timber single-glazed windows, to permit uPVC sliding sash double-glazed windows.

Councillors felt the multiple benefits of the project proceeding outweighed the need to retain the timber windows.

Addressing the committee, the applicant Cecil Doherty from Ebrington Leisure Holdings Ltd called for councillors to ‘be brave’ when making their decision. He added that having ‘single glazing in today’s world is absurd’.

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The original planning application, which was approved in 2018, was for the change of use of three listed buildings – 67 – 69 known as the Clocktower building, Building 63 the former Officers Quarters and Captains House and Building 79 is a two storey red brick building located to the rear of Building 63 – to create a 152 bedroom hotel, with associated leisure, function, meeting room, restaurant and bar facilities together.

Conditions attached required the retention of existing single-glazed Georgian multi-planed, putty-fronted, hardwood sliding sash windows to the listed buildings.

Agent for the application Harry McConnell from RPP Architects Ltd explained to the committee that the current single glazed putty windows were added as part of the City of Culture celebrations and the buildings in question were listed with uPVC windows in them.

He added that the timber windows were taken off a single template and not measured individually for the size of the openings. 

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Addressing the committee, Cecil Doherty said: “We are looking at spending £15 million developing an international footfall into the city with single glazed windows and you talk about the carbon footprint and all those elements. We are going to say to American visitors you  can stay in The Clock Tower but it’s single glazing  and we have to turn the temperature up to 30 degrees to maintain some sort of body temperature in those rooms. It’s not acceptable.

“We are locals investing over £15 million into this city, we are going to create over 120 jobs, we are going to bring in international visitors from all over, our marketing plan is extensive and costly, we are going to do that for this city because we are committed to doing that.

“We respect heritage and we are also preserving heritage by giving it a new lease of life. If you consider if the clock tower had sat as it was for another four or five years it may have fallen given the bad condition that it was in.

“In order to preserve it standing still £1.5 million was spent in the clock tower and we are now adding to that.

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“This started out at £11.5 million and it’s now at £15 million. We are taking ageing buildings and preserving them, we are enhancing them and we are creating a facility for this city with an international reputation for excellence.

“We require your support and require it right now. Single glazing in today’s world is absurd. We are proactively protecting our heritage and we are asking you to be brave. Your decision today will be instrumental in the future of that hotel. These are exceptional times that requires bravery from you as members to have the foresight to support what we are trying to do.”

Members were told that MLA Mark Durkan had sent a letter in support to the application which stated ‘he shares the views of the applicant that timber single glazed windows are not appropriate for hotel bedrooms and that in his view the multiple benefits of this application outweigh the concerns raised by officers.’

Addressing the applicant, SDLP Councillor Angela Dobbins said she would ‘not be comfortable with losing the character of that building.’

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Mr McConnell explained the type of uPVC windows proposed would ‘not be detrimental to the appearance of the building’ and the timber single glazed windows would be retained in the Captains House.

Proposing the application is approved, SDLP Councillor Sean Mooney said: “This is a very important site and this hotel development is a very important generator for the Ebrington site.”

Seconding the approval, Councillor Christopher Jackson added:  “I don’t accept the findings that this will have a detrimental impact on the buildings or the wider Ebrington Square. I’m content to see progression on the square and I’m content to second this to enable that progression.”

Members voted in favour of overturning the recommendation.

Gillian Anderson

Local Democracy Reporter

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