Council dismay as Armagh Gaol project in jeopardy

Armagh Gaol.
Armagh Gaol.

Any collapse of plans to redevelop Armagh Gaol into an hotel would be a big blow for the city, local councillors have said.

It was revealed this week that a property company is on the verge of withdrawing £11m, unless a funding gap is filled by Stormont.

The Osborne Group has been working since 2007 on the project to turn the jail into a luxury hotel, retail units, housing and a public area.

Although the company has increased its funding from £8m to £11m and the council has pledged £2m, the project needs £10m from Stormont, but only £6m has been agreed.

A further factor is that the shortfall is putting at risk a potential £2m grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund.

Leaders from all the political groups within the council have sent a letter to the Office of the First and Deputy First Minister saying they are “extremely dismayed” at the latest developments.

Jim Speers of the UUP said that considering the advanced stage of the project, and the amount of jobs it will generate, the shortfall was “not massive”. He added, “This is a two-and-a-half year restoration project so the shortfall would be about £2m a year.”

The DUP’s Gareth Wilson said the council had worked tirelessly with the Osborne Group to get the project to this stage and for it not to proceed would be “very detrimental”.

John Briggs, council chief executive, said he remained hopeful that a resolution could still be found.