A NEW hotel is at the centre of Irish Society plans aimed at revitalising two prime sites on the banks of the River Bann.
The 400-year-old body, set up by City of London merchants, to administer the Plantation in the North West of Ulster owns land once occupied by building supplies firm, Spanboard.
It also controls the former fisheries laboratory at the Cutts.
This week the Society has revealed it has employed consultants to develop a masterplan for both sites which are set to include housing, leisure facilities, a hotel and possible a visitor centre for the Mountsandel archaeological site.
Secretary, Edward Montgomery said: “We have engaged a number of professional firms to look at master-planning the Spanboard and fisheries lab site.
“There are a number of different strands to it, and we are still at very early stages, but leisure, tourist and residential uses are all being considered – nothing has been ruled out.
“And there will definitely be a hotel at its centre, which we think will be terrific and we are in discussions with a number of interested parties.
“On the lab site both the council and community groups have expressed interest in creating visitor facilities for Mountsandel and we are working with both parties to find out how our site can fit in.”
The Honourable The Irish Society was first created by Royal Charter in 1613 to undertake the Plantation in the North West of Ulster.
It was originally a sub-committee of the City of London Corporation, which had been identified by King James I as the most suitable organisation to operate the plantation, and rebuild the City of Derry (renamed Londonderry) and Coleraine.
It survives as one of County Londonderry's biggest landowners and custodian of fishing rights on a number of rivers including the Bann.
Income generated by various business interests is now funnelled into cross-community charitable projects.
“The important thing is to get income streams for our charitable operations. We have a duty to use our assets as wisely as we can,” continued Edward Montgomery.
“We are proceeding cautiously, but we are confident we have two sites that can benefit the region socially and economically.”
The Irish Society's site at Castleroe has lain vacant since Spanboard closed down its Coleraine operation in 2012.