The Senior Planning officer provided the Committee with the details of the substantive scheme in the north west of the City.
He outlined the key issues which were considered during the assessment of the proposed development, including:
· Development Plan considerations
· Principle of Proposed Uses
· Open Space Provision
· Layout, Massing, Design and Visual Impact
· Traffic, Movement and Parking
· Impact on the Environment and Amenity
· Other Environmental Matters
· Drainage and Flooding
· Natural Heritage including potential impact on Protected Sites, Protected Priority Species and Habitats
· Built heritage / archaeology
· Developer Contributions/ Section 76 Agreement
· Pre-application Community Consultation
He advised the Committee that the principle of the proposed uses and general layout and location of the uses had been established through outline planning permission (Z/2010/1284/O) which was extant. The Members were advised that the uses also sat comfortably with the proposed mixed use zoning in Draft BMAP 2015.
The Committee was advised that the development was proposed on an expansive sloping site just within the settlement limits. The Senior Planning officer outlined that the site was zoned for Employment/Industry (Zoning BT007) in Draft BMAP 2015 (published November 2004) and zoned as a Mixed Use site (Zoning BT002) in BMAP 2015 (published September 2014). He explained that there was also an extant outline planning approval on the site for a mixed use development and that the presumption was therefore in favour of development.
He advised the Committee that, although a large number of trees must be removed to facilitate the development, many protected trees would be retained and that a comprehensive replanting scheme was included, with existing trees integrated within open spaces throughout the development. He added that the scheme respected the site’s edge of settlement location with a south-north landscape spine as a key design concept, providing a visual bridge between the urban character of the Glen Road to the rural character of the Belfast Hills to the north of the site.
He pointed out that the design and layout responded to the topography of the site in such a way as to minimise the visual impact.
The Committee was advised that the quantum of social and affordable housing would not only contribute towards one of the main aims of the Belfast Agenda but would also provide much needed housing in an area of identified housing stress. He explained that the introduction of retail, office and industrial units, as well as hotel and care homes, would provide jobs for people in the locality and beyond.
The Senior Planning officer advised that the design and access statement outlined that the proposal represented an investment of around £95million from the private sector and during the construction phase would create about 400 construction jobs. Once operational, the proposal would generate approximately 370 local jobs in a range of sectors within the employment, retail, community and trust home uses.
He reported that an Environmental Statement had been submitted with the application and had been considered in the assessment of theapplication. He explained that after scrutiny from expert consultees it was concluded that the proposal would not have any significant impacts on the environment.
The Committee was advised that, of the statutory consultees, NI Water, DFI Roads, Historic Environment Division (HED) and Tourism NI had no objections subject to conditions.
The Members’ attention was drawn to the Late Items pack, whereby a second response had been received from the Belfast Hills Partnership, reiterating that they had no objections but that they had some concerns as detailed within the case officer’s report. The response from DfI Rivers had also been received and the Senior Planning officer explained that the relevant conditions had already been included within the Case officer’s report.
He explained that NIEA had been re-consulted with additional information and that they had responded with a number of recommended conditions. Shared Environmental Services and the BCC Trees and Landscape Team had also responded with a number of recommended conditions and, if granted, delegated authority was sought to attach the conditions and to finalise wording if necessary.
The Senior Planning officer outlined that two objections had been received, the details of which were outlined within the Case Officer’s report. He explained that concerns had been raised regarding the ability of the existing roads infrastructure to cope with an increase in traffic. He explained that DFI Roads had confirmed it was satisfied with the proposal and was content that there would be no unacceptable impact on the existing road network. He added that the mitigation offered by a robust Travel Plan and a 5 year contribution towards a bus route which would run through the site was considered to outweigh any requirement to improve the existing infrastructure serving the site and in the surrounding area. He added that DFI Roads was satisfied with the level of parking proposed for the development, where most dwellings were served by two in-curtilage parking spaces.
The Chairperson welcomed Mr. T Stokes, TSA Planning, to the meeting. He advised the Committee that the proposal was not just another large housing development and that the applicant wanted to create a new, sustainable community in west Belfast, putting the core principles of society, the environment and the economy at its centre. He further outlined that:
· the residential areas were split into 8 individual character areas, each with their own identity;
· three large areas of public open space were included throughout the development in addition to smaller spaces, well above the minimum guidance, and all were connected via cycle and pedestrian footways;
· it would promote economic development and local employment opportunities within the retail hub, office and light industrial units, hotel and care homes;
· a green boulevard would run through the centre of the site and the layout allowed for many existing trees on the site to be retained, with 1,100 new street trees proposed, along with over 8,000 new native woodland trees and over 60,000 shrubs and new hedging. Existing grasslands would be enhanced and extended, and 25 bat boxes would be added to support the ecology;
· the application had been subject to extensive Pre-Application Discussions prior to submission and, throughout the 10 month process, a number of meetings and workshops were held between the Council and the design team. The discussions had continued when the application had been lodged;
· the fact there had only been two representations objecting to the development was testament to the applicant’s successful engagement with the local community;
· there were two new accesses onto the Monagh By Pass, with the main entrance into the site being a new signalised junction, and the proposal included measures to support a new bus service to the site;
· noted the comments from the Council’s Local Development Plan Team, suggesting that the density of the site should be around 1,100 dwellings, and it was not often that a developer would turn down the opportunity to almost double the residential density of a site, however, they believed the proposal provided the most sustainable plan for the site; and
· the application had the full support of the NI Housing Executive.
In response to a Member’s questions, Mr. T. Stokes confirmed that the wastewater treatment works would be adopted by NI Water and that the applicant had a bond with DfI Roads to adopt the street lights within the development.
A Member commented that, where possible, they would like to see cycle lanes segregated from pavements and walkways as it was generally acknowledged that this was safer, particularly for those with visual impairment.
A further Member stated that he welcomed the inclusion of the significant number of social housing units within the scheme. He sought clarification on the Local Development Plan Team’s objection. In response, the Director of Planning and Building Control advised that the LDP Team’s analysis of the application had been somewhat crude in terms of comparing it with the density of the surrounding area. He outlined that the topography of the site had to be considered, particularly in terms of the sites constraints. He added that the proposal would create a site where people would live, work and play.
In response to a Member’s question regarding the transport infrastructure to the site, Mr. C. Dickinson, DfI Roads, confirmed that there was an agreement between the applicant and Translink to fund a bus service to the site for the first five years, from day one. He explained that Translink would continue to operate the bus route after that time as it would with any other route.
A further number of Members welcomed the application.
The Committee approved the application subject to conditions and a Section 76 Planning Agreement to secure the implementation of detailed Travel Plans, Employability and Skills Plan, financial contributions to help establish a bus route to serve the site, provision of social housing and the management and maintenance of public open space within the development. The Committee delegated power to the Director of Planning and Building Control to finalise the wording of the conditions, the Section 76 Agreement and to resolve any issues arising from any outstanding consultation responses.
(The Committee adjourned for a five minute recess at this point in proceedings)