€3.5m investment to create 45 jobs in Newcastle West

Norma Prendiville

Reporter:

Norma Prendiville

Jim Long, the owner of the Newcastle West hotel with his wife, Prof Mary Sheppard

NEWCASTLE West’s only hotel, which closed last year, will reopen next year as the Longcourt House Hotel after a €3m make-over.

Planning permission to redesign and revamp the former Courtenay Lodge Hotel was granted this week and its new owner hopes it will be up and running by September 2016.

Jim Long, the Feohanagh-born businessman based in London who bought the hotel last November, said this week: “It has been a long road.”

But he confirmed he plans to invest over €3m in redesigning and upgrading the hotel. And he expects that between 40 and 50 jobs will come on stream once the hotel opens for business.

The Courtenay Lodge Hotel closed very suddenly last October with the loss of over 40 jobs and was bought by Mr Long shortly after. Mr Long is a property developer of long-standing and has an extensive portfolio in London but this is his first hotel project.

And the project is an ambitious one. It will invole demolishing the existing night club and function area and replacing it with a 22,000 square feet of space that will seat up to 375 people for dinner or 750 people for concerts, conferences or other functions.

The design will also include a redesigned bar and bar restaurant as well as a high-end dining room. The existing 39-bedroom block will be restyled and refitted while the exterior of the hotel and its surroundings will also get a facelift.

But work cannot begin for at least a month, to allow time for any appeals to An Bord Pleanala. If there are none, Mr Long said he hoped the demolition crew would move on to the site in November.

A number of conditions are attached to the planning permission. There are particular stipulations about sound levels. And there is also a stipulation that an area to the rear of the hotel cannot be used after 11pm. But Mr Long described these conditions as “realistic” and is happy to meet them.

He is also optimistic the Irish economic recovery will have deepened by the time the hotel is up and running. “There has been a pick-up in Dublin but it has been slower down the country,” he said. “A lot of people are still struggling with debt.”

Mr Long is married to Prof Mary Sheppard, a native of Newcastle West and a cardiac pathology expert who teaches and lectures in hospitals and universities in London and abroad. They have four adult children, the youngest of whom has just begun his university education.

“I have always maintained my association with the GAA, “ he said, explaining that he makes regular return visits to the area and is a long-standing attender at the Listowel Races.

“Through the GAA and racing, I have never really lost contact,” he added. At some point in the next few years, he hopes to move back to the area.

Fellow Feohanagh man, Cllr Jerome Scanlan, also welcomed this week’s development.

He described Mr Long and his wife as “exceptional business people” and said: “They will make a noble contribution to the economic and social life of Newcastle West.”