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  • Writer's pictureMichelle Weir (Local Democracy Reporter)

Planning permission granted for £8m hotel expansion in County Antrim

The Rabbit Hotel in Templepatrick, County Antrim.

Permission for an £8m extension at The Rabbit Hotel in Templepatrick was granted by Antrim and Newtownabbey councillors at a planning committee meeting on Monday evening, 19th February.


The proposal is for a new 46-bedroom block, spa and leisure facilities, parking and landscaping at the Antrim Road establishment on a site to the rear of the hotel.



A report to the committee said:


“The proposed building consists of three interlinked sections, the section closest to the existing hotel is two-storey and accommodates a spa area containing a sauna and five treatment rooms on the ground floor with a guest cinema on the first floor.


“Ten of the bedrooms are on the ground floor with 19 on the second floor and  the remaining 17 accommodated on the third floor. The bedrooms on the ground floor have patio doors which access out onto a terrace, the bedrooms on the first floor again have patio doors accessing onto a balcony area while the bedrooms on the first floor have ‘Juliet’ balconies.”



Aerial view showing proposed new hotel block to rear of The Rabbit Hotel.

Barry Diamond, the council’s principal planning officer, told the committee the proposed site is located between a neighbouring housing development which is under construction and an existing lake.


He indicated planning conditions would mean there “will not be significant impact” on neighbouring properties with regard to noise. He noted 43 new parking spaces are to be provided and he went on to say a “shortfall is not so significant as to warrant a refusal”.


He added that a survey carried out by officers showed, at times, there is “a lack of parking which has resulted in some on-street parking as well as parking at a ‘Park and Ride'”.



Objector James Clarke pointed out NI Water has recommended the application be refused. He suggested a sewer in the area is “at a dangerous level of overflowing”.


He said he believes an “insufficient level of parking is being proposed” and suggested if an event such as a wedding is taking place in the hotel, parking may occur in neighbouring streets.


Proposed site plan for new hotel block facing onto lake.

Proposed site plan for new hotel block facing onto lake.


Another objector Angela Barton said she is “not against the development”.


“I am against the size of the development and its location. Water pressure in Templepatrick is already extremely low. At certain times, we do not have any,” she claimed.


She also told the committee there have been blockages with “cocktail umbrellas coming up toilets”. She also expressed concern about road safety and parking.


She continued: “We have suffered two years of noise from entertainment, from Ibiza style parties in the spa and in the function areas. It has taken two years to bring it in front of a committee here.”



David Mountstephen, a town planner, told the meeting changes have been made to the proposal at the request of the council, which he said, include a decrease in the number of bedrooms, from 50 and an increase in parking spaces.


“The proposal is for 46 bedrooms. It is not in the interest of the hotel for guests or neighbours to experience unacceptable adverse impact on amenity. In relation to parking, it is in the interest of the hotel to provide adequate parking facilities. That has been subject to robust assessment surveys during peak periods. It is a high quality development. It is a significant investment,” he continued.


Colin Johnston, managing director of Galgorm Collection, said the group purchased the former Templeton Hotel in 2019 with the restaurant and bar opening in July 2020 and guest rooms, the following year.



Mr Johnston reported the sum of £11m has been invested in the property and an additional 17 guest rooms are being added at a cost of £2.5m. The new extension of 46 bedrooms, he continued, will be a further £8m investment.


He said that 150 staff are employed at The Rabbit and an additional 30 jobs are expected to be created.


Threemilewater Alliance Alderman Tom Campbell said: “The one concern I have is that there are units looking on to the lake which have balconies.” He expressed concern for a potential problem for local amenity over noise.


Mr Johnston commented: “We are not going to have guests upset by other guests. It is something we manage on a day to day basis. As a hotel, we need to manage that first and foremost.”


Ald Campbell asked if the applicant would be prepared to remove the balconies from the proposal. He was told the company has balconies in some other properties without “any major issue”.


Elevations of proposed new hotel extension.

Elevations of proposed new hotel extension.


Committee chair Macedon Ulster Unionist Cllr Robert Foster questioned whether the parking survey was “robust” and if staff parking would be increased.


He was told the additional parking spaces would be “enough to accommodate the demand generated at the site” and the traffic survey had been “a very robust assessment”.



However, Cllr Foster stated it had been carried out on a weekday and not at one of the busiest times.


“People use the overflow car park in the ‘Park and Ride’. If there were enough spaces, they would not need to do that. If there are not enough, people will park on the streets,” he insisted.


Airport Sinn Fein Cllr Annemarie Logue asked about the water infrastructure in relation to the sewerage network. Mr Diamond replied the developer would not be able to commence work until a sewerage agreement has been reached with NI Water.


Ald Campbell proposed planning permission be refused saying: “I think there is a balance to be struck between encouraging development and preserving the rights of people who live in the immediate vicinity. I do not think the balance is struck fairly on this occasion by reason of significant amenity concerns and parking provision.”



His proposal was seconded by Antrim DUP Ald John Smyth but was defeated by a vote with five councillors in favour and six against.


Ballyclare DUP Cllr Jeannie Archibald-Brown proposed accepting the recommendation to approve the application seconded by Deputy Mayor Glengormley Sinn Fein Cllr Rosie Kinnear.


Planning permission was approved following a vote with six councillors in favour and five against.


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