A council’s decision to refuse permission for a large function room in the grounds of one of Northern Ireland’s most historic buildings has been overturned.
Last year, Ards and North Down Borough Council voted not to grant planning permission for the proposed function room at the 12th-century Quintin Castle on the Ards Peninsula in Co Down.
However, the owners of the castle — which was repossessed 10 years ago by the Irish government’s National Asset Management Agency (Nama) — took the matter to the Planning Appeals Commission (PAC), which has now overturned the council’s decision.
Quintin Castle, which is close to the village of Portaferry, was originally built in 1184. It is owned by Mullahead Property Company Limited, which is part of the Tayto Group.
In 2019, Mullahead was granted planning permission to convert the castle into a guesthouse. However, the company’s plan to build the function room in the external courtyard was refused permission by the council over the potential impact of traffic attending events at the castle on the surrounding quiet roads.
People living in the area had also raised concerns with the council over noise coming from functions.
However, following his investigation, Commissioner Gareth Kerr said he believed the function room would not be a “significant inconvenience” to the local road network if a “sustainable travel plan” was put in place by the castle owners.
He granted planning permission for the function room, subject to a number of conditions, which along with the travel plan include a maximum of one event being held at the venue each day and the use of building materials in keeping with the historic nature of the castle.
The function room will accommodate 144 people, and 54 car parking spaces will be provided for the building.
The development of the castle as a hotel and wedding venue marks another chapter in the history of the famous building.
The original castle was built by Norman settler John de Courcy on a prominent waterside location in order to repel invaders.
The existing building, which was built in the Victorian era around the ruins of the Norman castle, comprises a large square tower in the centre with four smaller towers at the corners with distinctive stepped castellations.
The current owners, the Hutchinson family, set up the Tayto Group in 1956. The company also owns Tandragee Castle in Co Armagh.