(Councillor O’Hara left the meeting at this point in proceedings)
The Principal Planning officer provided the principal aspects of the application to the Committee. She pointed out that this was the adjoining pitch to the previous application, LA04/2020/0757/F.
The Committee noted that a site visit had taken place at the pitches on 12th August.
The Principal Planning officer outlined that the main issues to be considered in the assessment of the proposal were:
· the principle of development;
· design, visual amenity and impact on character of locality;
· landscaping / ecology / draft LLPA;
· impact on residential amenity;
· access, movement and parking; and
· flooding / infrastructure capacity.
She explained that the proposed hours of operation of the pitch were from 9.00 am to 6.00 pm, Monday to Friday, and 8.00 am to 1.00 pm on Saturdays. There would be no use of the pitch on Sundays. The Members were advised that the applicant had confirmed that the pitch was for the primary use of the school only with the occasional use of the pitches for Easter and summer camps as per the existing arrangements with Pirrie Park.
As the proposal involved upgrade works to an existing hockey pitch, she explained that retaining its recreational use was in accordance with Policy OS1 of PPS8 and paragraph 6.205 of the SPPS.
The Principal Planning officer explained that 238 representations had been received, comprising 118 objections from local residents, 51 of which were in objection to the original and 67 to the amended scheme. She advised that 115 letters of support had been received from general public, with 5 letters of support from school staff.
The objections cited that the applications should be a major development and that the applicant had sought to avoid the requirements of a major application, lack of an Environmental Impact Assessment statement, light spillage, noise, significant harm to the visual amenity of residents and wider area, traffic congestion, parking and highway safety issues, access issues, drainage/flooding and health and safety concerns.
The representations of support cited that the current facilities were outdated, substandard and unsafe, the development would help the enhancement of girls’ sporting activities, physical and mental health benefits, there was adequate existing parking and access via Ardenlee Avenue, it would benefit children currently attending school, future generations and the local community, the proposed mitigation would limit harm to neighbours and it would provide a positive aesthetic effect on the surrounding area.
The Committee was advised that DFI Roads, Rivers Agency, NI Water, DAERA, Environmental Health and the Landscaping Section had been consulted and had no objection to the proposal.
The Members were advised of a number of late items and the officers response to the issues raised which were within the Late Items pack. The Committee noted that Environmental Health had recommended a construction management condition.
The Chairperson welcomed Mr. M. Graham, objector, to the meeting. He advised the Committee that:
· the process had been flawed in that he felt that the Council’s 2017 decision regarding the Pitch Development at Cherryvale was pertinent, and that officers had taken a different approach to this application;
· in the Cherryvale pitch application, officers had taken measurements from the residential boundaries and not from the length of the gardens, which was different to the Pirrie Park pitch applications;
· the drainage assessment had been submitted in 2018 and had not covered the specific areas of the two applications;
· a DfI Roads Service response which had been received that day, he was unaware that issues were still to be addressed and particularly an overlap in the use of Pirrie Park as a Park and Ride facility for Ulster Rugby matches on Friday evenings;
· no independent objective assessment had been carried out regarding the requirement for floodlights at Pirrie Park, and pointed out that a 69 page visual impact assessment had been submitted as part of the ongoing Stranmillis College pitch application;
· in terms of Draft BMAP, the site fell within a Local Landscape Policy Area and that without a proper objective impact assessment it did not meet POS7 of PPS8; and
· no account had been taken of the impact of the pitches in a night time setting.
The Chairperson invited Mr. S. Beattie QC, representing the applicant, to speak. He advised the Committee that:
· the Planning Department required the pitches to be cumulatively assessed and updated to contain a cumulative impact assessment;
· in terms of noise, it was concluded that the upgrades proposed would be an improvement on the current pitches and were below the levels determined by guidance;
· there would also be a betterment in terms of drainage on site;
· the movement of the pitch 5.5 metres to the east, in response to feedback from residents, made no material difference to the drainage assessment and that statutory consultees were content with this;
· the Cherryvale Pitch decision was not the precedent and nor should it be approached as one, and nor were the distances guidance or policy;
· the suggestion that the length of gardens was not a material consideration exercise by the officers and independent experts was wrong – it was a material consideration and it was a question of the weight which should be attached to it;
· the DfI Roads response simply clarified issues which they’d already stated and had no objection;
· statutory consultees had not requested that any of the floodlights be retractable and that floodlighting plans had been submitted with the application;
· the 6.00 pm deadline for the use and hours of floodlighting was significant to note; and
· documents had been submitted assessing the residential amenity.
The Principal Planning officer clarified a number of points to the Committee. She explained that, in relation to drainage, a meeting had been held with a number of elected members, the College and residents. The College subsequently withdrew the West pitch application and resubmitted it, having moved the boundary 5.5 metres away from residents. She advised that Rivers Agency were content with the information which had been submitted to them, including the drainage assessment and the addendum, and did not require a new assessment to be carried out.
She added that DfI Roads and the other consultees had been consulted throughout the process as there had been a number of technical objections. She explained that DfI Roads had reiterated today that they were content with the numbers provided by the school and the numbers that exist currently, cumulatively.
A Member stated that, while he did not feel that there were adequate reasons to refuse the application, it would be useful if the College would engage with those residents who had objections to the proposals, insofar as was possible, in order to maintain good community relations with their neighbours.
Moved by Councillor Nicholl,
Seconded by Councillor Hanvey,
That the Committee agrees to refuse the application on the basis that it is contrary to PPS8 OS4 and OS7 in terms of its impact upon residential amenity, specifically the visual impact of the 15 metre high pylons and the impact of the floodlighting on nearby houses.
On a vote, three Members voted for the proposal and eight against and it was declared lost.
Accordingly, the Chairperson put the officer’s recommendation to approve the application to the Committee, with delegated authority granted to the Director of Planning and Building Control to finalise the wording of conditions subject to no new substantive planning issues being raised by third parties, and it was agreed.