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The construction of a £100M ($151M) golf resort next to Northern Ireland’s only Unesco world heritage site, the Giant’s Causeway, "has been given the go-ahead following a high-profile court case that pitted conservation against development," according to Jamie Smyth of the FINANCIAL TIMES. Belfast High Court on Wednesday "dismissed a judicial review by the National Trust seeking to overturn the granting of planning permission for the luxury resort." The judgment paves the way for work to begin on an 18-hole championship golf course, clubhouse, golf academy, a five-star 120-bedroom hotel, 75 golf lodges and "a spa beside a geological phenomenon known as the Giant’s Causeway." The Unesco world heritage site "is made up of 40,000 huge black basalt columns sticking out of the sea" (FINANCIAL TIMES, 2/27).
IN FOR THE LONG HAUL: The London TELEGRAPH reported that the ruling "was a personal triumph" for the US-based Northern Ireland businessman Dr. Alistair Hanna who is heading up the investment and advisory group involved in the Bushmills Dunes golf resort and spa scheme, and which he claims "could create up to 360 direct jobs and an estimated 300 more through suppliers and construction." Hanna was not in court for Wednesday's judgment, but afterwards "declared work would begin as soon as possible." It is "likely to begin towards the end of the summer and take at least two years, maybe three, to complete" (TELEGRAPH, 2/27). The BBC reported Hanna said it will be one of the "most spectacular golf developments ever seen in Ireland." Hanna: "Not only will the resort provide a world-class golf links course and facilities attracting thousands of visitors each year, it will also protect the vulnerable topography of the coastal area which has been left vulnerable following decades of neglect." The resort "is to be known as Bushmills Dunes Golf Resort and Spa" (BBC, 2/28).
Lancashire has announced its ground will be known as Emirates Old Trafford for the next 10 years after "striking a major sponsorship deal," according to Andy Hampson of the London INDEPENDENT. The arrangement, reported to be worth up to £10M ($15.2M) "and the biggest in county cricket," will help the club fund its ongoing substantial redevelopment of the venue. Emirates' name will also appear on the front of the team's Twenty20 kits and the deal "includes a number of other marketing rights." Lancashire Chair Michael Cairns said, "The financial benefits of this deal are a core component of our long-term strategy for commercial sustainability" (INDEPENDENT, 2/28). In London, Andrew Bounds wrote it is a "further coup" for cricket after a period in the early 2000s when some counties and even the England team "struggled to find shirt sponsors." Emirates already sponsors the Durham Dynamos, including the Emirates Durham Int'l Cricket Ground, "one of a new crop of rivals that has forced Old Trafford" to spend £47M ($71.3M) on a revamp to ensure it can continue to host Test cricket, including this year’s Ashes against Australia (FINANCIAL TIMES, 2/28).
MAKING PRESENCE FELT: Also in London, Andy Wilson wrote the deal "means that the Emirates name will be attached to two of this summer's five Ashes Test grounds." The third Test will be at Emirates Old Trafford, the fourth at the Emirates Durham Int'l Cricket Ground, and the fifth at the Kia Oval. Traditionalists "will be relieved" that the first two Tests are being staged at Trent Bridge -- Nottinghamshire "having insisted only this week" that it has no intention of selling naming rights to its ground, which its CEO Lisa Pursehouse compared to "selling our soul" -- and Lord's, where the MCC "seems highly unlikely ever to need to entertain the idea" (GUARDIAN, 2/27). Also in London, Neil Gardner reported a £32M ($48.6M) redevelopment is "due to be completed before the Ashes match in August," the first Test the ground has staged since '10 (LONDON TIMES, 2/28). Emirates Airline Exec Vice-Chair Maurice Flanagan said, "This association also highlights our continued investment in Manchester and the surrounding region, a hub which we see as vital to our operations in the U.K." (GULF NEWS, 2/28).