The Principal Planning officer reminded the Committee that, at its meeting on 13th October, it had agreed to defer consideration of the application to enable a site visit to be undertaken to allow the Committee to acquaint itself with the location and the proposals at first hand and to request further information on sustainable transport measures and the travel plan. The site visit had taken place on 22nd October.
He provided the Committee with an overview of the application. He outlined that the recommendation to approve was subject to the developer entering into a Section 76 Planning Agreement to include green travel measures, including:
· the submission of a residential travel plan;
· travel cards for each of the 151 units for 3 years;
· submission of a car club strategy and provision of 3 parking spaces retained for car club purposes (ongoing/permanent basis); and
· voucher / subsidy for a bicycle for each apartment.
He explained that the Section 76 agreement would also include developer contributions for:
· monetary contribution towards nearby play space facilities (Rotterdam Street) to offset the policy requirement for provision of children’s play space/equipment;
· provision and future maintenance of the external amenity space within the site; and
· employability and skills framework/details for the construction element of the proposal.
The Committee was advised that the original report incorrectly stated that the building was 11 storeys. He pointed out that the application sought full planning permission for a 19 storey residential building, comprising an 11 storey podium element (maximum height of 30.6metres), including outdoor amenity area, with a further 8 storey tower element above (maximum height of 55.1metres), for 151 apartments and ancillary uses.
The Members were advised of the key issues which were considered in the assessment of the proposal, including the principle of the proposal at this location, layout, scale, form, massing, height and design, the impact on amenity, flooding and drainage impact.
The Principal Planning officer explained that the site was within the City Centre boundary in the BUAP and both versions of BMAP, where residential development was acceptable in principle. The site comprised a car park area associated with an adjacent office building and included a hard-surfaced area underneath an existing elevated railway line, and lay adjacent to the junction with the M3 on-slip.
The Members were advised that the proposal supported the aims of the Belfast Agenda around city centre living and that residential uses were located immediately adjacent to the site.
The Planning officer advised that the site was not located in a Conservation Area or Area of Townscape Character (ATC), there were no listed buildings or assets of any historic interest on site, nor was the site in close proximity to any heritage assets.
He advised the Committee that it was considered that the scale, height, massing and materials of the building were, on balance, acceptable and appropriate to the site context and the area. He explained that the massing of the building was broken up by the design and that the layout assisted in addressing the townscape of the M3 on-slip and the distance views from Middlepath Street and Bridge End. The solid to void ratio of the fenestration also assisted in reducing the massing of the building.
The Committee was advised that the proposal would not adversely impact on the amenity of existing properties, and included amenity space for prospective residents.
The Principal Planning officer outlined that all consultees including DFI Roads, the Urban Design Officer, DEARA, HED, SES, NI Water, HED, Environmental Health, BCC Landscape Section and Belfast City Airport had no objections to the proposal.
One objection, which related to the height of the proposed building, and one letter of support had been received in relation to the application.
A Member queried how accessible the Rotterdam Street play area would be to the prospective residents, given the busy roads surrounding the site. In response, the Planning officer explained that while there were busy roads, Rotterdam Street could be reached by pelican crossings and that it was within a short walking distance of the site.
A further Member raised concerns regarding the outlook for residents. In response the Principal Planning officer explained that, three apartments on each floor would have an outlook to the carpark and the office building, with the others looking towards the direction of the M3 or to the front.
In response to a Member’s question regarding the usability of the ground floor amenity space which was adjacent to the M3, the Planning officer explained that it was considered acceptable and was enhanced by virtue of the change in level between the amenity space and the slip road, and the existing landscape buffer. He advised that officers felt that the public realm improvements which were proposed as part of the scheme and the size of the residential accommodation were, on balance, acceptable.
The Chairperson welcomed Mr. M. Gordon, Turley, to the meeting. He explained that the ground floor would contain non-residential elements, such as plant and the gym, as it was not considered conducive to a quality residential environment. He advised the Committee that drone photographs had been taken on site to consider the views from the upper floor apartments. He added that considerable thought had gone into the residential amenity and that vertical louvres had been added to the external façade in order to allow light in and to reduce the invisibility between the office building and the residential scheme. He added that each apartment had a private external, recessed balcony.
In relation to the play space, he acknowledged that the environment was hard and that it was a difficult network to negotiate and that it would be a judgement for parents to make in terms of how children accessed the park. He explained, however, that the proposal demonstrated a good use of the developers’ contributions framework in action, in that it provided approximately an acre of high quality external public realm improvements.
With regards to the height of the building, he explained to the Committee that the site had the capacity to accommodate a tall building insofar as it was not within a Conservation Area or an ATC, and that the Historic Environment Division (HED) had advised that there would be no significant harm to any nearby heritage assets. He highlighted the general poor quality condition of the sites within the east bank shatterzone and that increased use and height was required.
Moved by Councillor Garrett
Seconded by Councillor Carson,
That the Committee grants approval to the application, subject to the imposing of the conditions set out within the case officer’s report and to no new substantive planning issues being raised by third parties, and delegates power to the Director of Planning and Building Control for the final wording of the conditions.
On a vote, eleven members voted for the proposal, two against and one no vote and it was declared carried.