Agenda item


            (Councillor Nicholl declared an interest in the item and advised that she wished to speak against it.  She left the meeting after addressing the Committee and did not participate in the vote)


            The Committee was reminded that the application had been on the agenda for the meeting of 17th November but that it had been deferred in order that the Committee could undertake a site visit.  The Principal Planning officer explained that the site visit had taken place on 2nd December and, as the application had not yet been presented to the Committee, that all Members’ present at the meeting were able to take part in the debate and vote.


            She explained that the proposed development was in substitution for 10 units previously approved, which consisted of 8 semi-detached and 2 detached dwellings granted under planning reference Z/2012/0645/RM.


            The site was not zoned for a use within BUAP, draft BMAP 2004 or the unlawfully adopted version ofBMAP 2015.


            The Principal Planning officer drew the Committee’s attention to a number of Late Items which had been received after the publication of the Committee report.  She explained that amended drawings had been received from the agent on 13th December, showing amendments to the proposed floor plans, including a reduction from 5 bedrooms to 4 bedrooms in 4 of the dwellings and a reduction from 5 bedrooms to 4 bedrooms and a home office in 6 of the dwellings.   The amendments had been made by the applicant in response to previous objections regarding the inclusion of a fifth bedroom in the design proposals. 


            She explained to the Committee that the parking requirements for 4 bed semi-detached dwellings were 2.75 spaces, and that the amendments did not impact on the required spaces, as the previous calculation was based on that arrangement, due to there being no specific standards outlined in Creating Places for 5 bed semi-detached dwellings.


            The Committee was advised that, while the Council welcomed the reduction in numbers of proposed bedrooms, there was nothing to stop potential occupiers using the proposed home office as a bedroom and that to condition it would not be reasonable.


            In response to concerns raised by objectors, she explained that officers were recommending a condition to remove permitted development rights, so that potential occupiers would always require planning permission if any additional operational development or extension was proposed.


            The Members were advised that the developer had sent a response to queries received from an elected Member, advising that existing occupiers on the surrounding site had all signed a covenant which prohibited HMO use and that any future covenants could be even more explicit in the transfer and could include HMO use as a distinct limb of restriction, for the avoidance of any doubt.


            The Principal Planning officer reminded the Committee that planning permission was required to change the use of residential dwellings to an HMO.


            She highlighted that 29 objections had been received in respect of the proposed development, relating to a number of issues including parking, road safety, overall design concept and drainage, in addition to issues regarding the existing built development. The Members were advised that many of the objections related to existing parking and proposed parking on site.


            She provided the details of additional representations which had been received from the Harberton Crescent Residents Group (HCRG).  They stated that the submitted drawings showed the incorrect arrangement for Plot 129 and, consequently, the proposed parking arrangement did not work and that the proposed 3 on street parking spaces posed a serious safety and congestion issue. They also raised issues regarding discrepancies in the dimensions as proposed in the drawings and what actually existed on site.  The Principal Planning officer provided the Committee with the officers’ response to the issues raised.


            The Members were advised that DFI Roads hadadvised that it was content with the proposal subject to a number of conditions as detailed in the addendum report.


            The Committee was advised that two planning applications, LA04/2018/2682/F and LA04/2020/0119/F, had previously been listed in the case officer report as live applications, but both of which had subsequently been withdrawn. They related to sites directly to the north and south of the application site.  The Members were also advised that a new planning application had been submitted in respect of No. 14 Harberton Crescent, that is, Plot 129 which was located opposite the application site. She explained that the issue was referred to in the original Case officer report as the dwelling and driveway had been built in a different location on site than as approved under LA04/2016/0200/F. She explained that the Planning application sought to regularise the amendments to the constructed layout and remained under consideration.


            The Chairperson welcomed Councillor McAteer to the meeting.  She advised the Committee that:


·        she had met with residents of Harberton Crescent, who were concerned with the proposals primarily in relation to parking and road safety issues;

·        that a number of the driveways in the Harberton Crescent area were too narrow for their cars, which meant that numerous residents parked on the street instead; and

·        the residents were also concerned that the applicant was applying to develop small sections of the overall site one at a time, which meant that the overall issue in terms of parking was failing to be recognised by statutory agencies.



            The Chairperson welcomed Councillor Lyons to the meeting.  He highlighted that, in having discussed the issues with residents, the main issues were:


·        the differences between the measurements of the driveways on the plans and what had actually been built on the ground;

·        the impact that had on the safety of the families living on the surrounding streets; and

·        the 3 zones of parking as detailed in the officer’s presentation meant that, unfortunately, the overall issue in terms of parking seemed to have been overlooked.


            The Chairperson welcomed Councillor Spratt to the meeting.  He advised the Committee that he had recently met with both the developer and the residents and that:


·        the proposed change by the agent to “4 bedroom semi-detached houses with a study” did not give the current residents any comfort, as the houses could still be used or sold as 5 bedroom houses;

·        the parking standards were silent in regards to 5 bedroom semi-detached properties which was unfortunate as the parking issue within the development would be significantly compounded;

·        the zoning of the parking as shown in the presentation illustrated that there was already a shortfall in terms of parking; and

·        he had measured driveways in the development and they were over 2 feet narrower at the point beside the chimneys.


            The Chairperson then invited Councillor Nicholl to address the Committee.  She explained that:


·        residents wanted to see development in the area but that it needed to be appropriate;

·        the current driveways in the development did not allow two cars to be parked and that this proposal would only exacerbate the issue; and

·        she disagreed with the DFI Roads assessment as it would undeniably have a detrimental impact on road safety and congestion, particularly at the 90* bend.


(Councillor Nicholl left the meeting at this point in proceedings)


            The Chairperson welcomed Ms. N. Prior, Mr. C. Mackle and Mr. G. Diamond, a group of objectors, to the meeting.


Together, they advised the Committee that:


·        the drawings indicated the incorrect location of Plot 129 which meant that the total number of parking spaces indicated on the proposal drawings could not be provided as one space was directly opposite the driveway of that plot;

·        the residents of Harberton Crescent were particularly concerned about the proposal as a number of the driveways in the houses adjacent to the application site were narrower than required and the boundaries between properties were not built in accordance with the plans;

·        the study rooms of the proposed 4 bedroom semis were the size of a double bedroom and could therefore contain up to ten people per household;

·        concerns that it would lead to even more parked cars in the development;

·        even with proposed changed drawing of 13th December, plot 129 continued to be drawn in the wrong location and that at last one of the car parking spaces could not be provided;

·        it was disingenuous to suggest that there were no parking standards for 5 bedrooms semi-detached houses in Creating Places, there were standards for 5 bedroom detached houses and that those standards should be met;

·        residents were frustrated at the continuing tactic of parcelling the development into packages of 10 units or less to avoid the need to comply with normal studies and reports which should be best practice;

·        the Harberton Crescent Residents Group had offered to meet with the developer on several occasions to no avail; and

·        they would like to see the development progress in full accordance with all planning guidelines and with a focus on design, green space and open space.


            The Chairperson then welcomed Mr. D. Craigan, representing the developer, to the meeting.  He outlined to the Committee that:


·        HBH had been on the Harberton site since 2015 and were in their 6th phase of the build programme;

·        the proposal formed an amendment to a former approval for 10 housing units, which the case officer had deemed a betterment than the extant;

·        in late 2019, DFI Roads had requested that the parking schedule be updated specific to the red line application and that document illustrated an oversupply of 6 car parking spaces;

·        detailed scrutiny had taken place with statutory consultees, primarily DFI Roads, and BCC Planning;

·        further drawings, revisions G and C, were formally approved by DFI Roads in November 2020;

·        they had engaged with the objectors and welcomed the opportunity to discuss concerns with them and with elected reps;

·        they had received an email from Councillor McAteer on 27th August, requesting a meeting, and that they had replied and offered dates a few days later, but did not hear back from the Member;

·        Councillor Spratt had articulated to Mr. Craigan that the fear of the residents was in relation to the possibility that an increased number of in-curtilage and visitor parking would be required for Harberton Crescent, due to the design of the houses having 5 rooms upstairs marked as bedrooms;

·        having listened to the concerns of the residents, and given the current pandemic, the inclusion of a home office was felt to be more apt than ever and they had therefore lodged plans to change 6 of the units to “4 bedrooms and a home office”;

·        the residents would be fully aware of the precedent used in all sales in the Harberton development to date, which included the restriction expressly prohibiting an HMO use, and that it would again be used for all the proposed dwellings in front of the Committee;

·        the driveways for 8 of the units were long enough to hold 3 parked cars, but DFI Roads chose not to allocate more than 2 per drive;

·        by making the alteration to the layout of the houses, they had reduced the impact on parking on a scheme which already had approval;

·        the development would maintain 50 construction jobs for 18 months, and add an additional capital value of circa £7million to Belfast City Council; and

·        that the design was compliant and there was no legal reason for refusal.


            In response to a Member’s question, Mr. Craigan advised the Committee that the fundamentals in respect of the number of units, design, drainage and open space in respect of the entire 16 acre site had been considered as part of the Reserved Matters application in 2012. He explained that every statutory consultee had been consulted in respect of 140 units going on the site, and that there was no justification for the allegations which had been made in terms of the developer purposefully parcelling up the housing units into smaller groups in order to hide parking issues.


            In response to a further Member’s question, Mr. Craigan confirmed that all storm sewers would be fully adopted by NI Water.


            A Member queried the parking standards for 5 bedroom houses.  In response, the Principal Planning officer explained that DFI Roads had discounted one in-curtilage space for those eight houses with driveways which were long enough to accommodate three cars, in response to concerns from residents.  She advised that the wider area still had the capacity to accommodate the required number of cars per house and that the standards had been met.  She added that the driveways were significantly wider at the point with the chimney breast than those referenced earlier in the meeting in Harberton Crescent.  She confirmed that DFI Roads had no objection.


            A further Member stated that, while many Councillors would sympathise with residents and understood the frustrations in relation to parking and the response from DFI Roads as the statutory agency, the Committee was required to analyse all applications in accordance with planning policies.


            The officer’s recommendation to approve the application, subject to conditions as outlined in the addendum report, with authority delegated to the Director of Planning and Building Control to finalise the wording of the conditions subject to no new substantive planning issues being raised by third parties, was put to the Committee.


            On a vote, nine Members voted for the proposal, one against, with one no vote, and it was declared carried.


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