The creation of a new visitor centre at Hillsborough Castle could attract hundreds of thousands of visitors to the village, it has been claimed.
Historic Royal Palaces (HRP) are pushing ahead with ambitious plans for a number of new developments and improvements at the property, including a visitor centre, charities building and restoration of the gardens.
An amended planning application for the project is due to come before Lisburn and Castlereagh City Council’s Planning Committee for consideration on Monday, January 9.
Members previously approved an application by HRP for a new car park beside the A1 dual carriageway to service the castle.
Committee chairman, Councillor Alexander Redpath, revealed that there have been no objections to the main project application, which planning officials have recommended for approval.
Ulster Unionist MLA and local resident Jenny Palmer has welcomed the planned improvements at the castle and is hopeful that the historic property will become one of Northern Ireland’s premier visitor attractions.
“I believe that developments with the castle will tie in well with other developments planned in the area which aim to improve our offering to tourists,” she said.
“Lisburn and Castlereagh currently has the lowest level of overnight visits by tourists of any council area in Northern Ireland. The development of Hillsborough Castle will give us the opportunity to become a centre for tourism in Northern Ireland with all the associated benefits.
“I hope the planning committee approve the application in line with the recommendation of the planners. This development represents an opportunity that if used properly could bring real benefits to our area.”
Also hopeful that the council committee will give the project the green light, Lagan Valley MP Sir Jeffrey Donaldson said: “I am delighted that HRP are pressing ahead with these plans as they will enhance the facilities available at Hillsborough Castle and help to attract hundreds of thousands of visitors to our local area. This will provide a major tourism boost for Hillsborough, but also for the wider Lisburn area.”
The DUP man added: “With HRP set to take over responsibility for the historic courthouse and the fort in Hillsborough, this will help to make the village one of the most popular visitor venues in Northern Ireland.
“This will bring a welcome boost for the local economy and HRP will work closely with the council and others to ensure we exploit the full potential of having so many people visit our locality.”
Hillsborough Castle, the official residence of Her Majesty the Queen in Northern Ireland, was built in the 1770s by Wills Hill, first Marquess of Downshire.