The Principal Planning officer provided the Committee with the key aspects of the scheme.
She outlined the issues which had been considered in the assessment of the development, including the principle of development, the design, layout, impact on character and appearance of the area, parking and access, amenity space provision, drainage and flooding, infrastructure, contamination and ecology.
The Committee was advised that the Council was the landowner and that the site was located adjacent to a railway line and comprised two landscaped areas separated by McClure Street. The Principal Planning officer advised that the site was located on the boundary of the city centre and was identified as open space in both versions of dBMAP.
She provided the Members with the planning history of the site, which she advised was an important consideration of the current proposal. She explained that application Z/2014/0586/F had been refused permission for 27 dwellings with no in curtilage car parking on the site. The Committee was advised that the proposal was dismissed at appeal, however, the Commission had determined that the principle of the use of the site for social housing represented substantial community benefit to outweigh the loss of the open space to meet an exception to Policy OS1 of PPS8.
The Committee was advised that the current application had a reduced number of units, from 27 down to 22, and that it incorporated in curtilage parking. The Principal Planning officer explained that the application was also accompanied by Flood Risk and Drainage Assessments.
She highlighted to the Committee that 6 letters of support, 49 objections and 2 petitions of objection with 36 signatories had been received in respect of the proposed development. The objections were received from 32 different persons/addresses and raised issues primarily with respect to parking, traffic, noise, loss of open space, amenity and the character of the area. She explained that the issues had been addressed in the case officer’s report. The Members were advised that the most recent amended layout had been re-advertised and neighbour notified, with two representations having been received from one objector and one letter of support.
The Committee noted that Environmental Health, DFI Roads, NI Water, Rivers Agency, NITHC, NIHE and NIEA had all been consulted and had offered no objection to the proposal.
The Principal Planning officer drew the Committee’s attention to the Late Items pack, whereby correspondence had been received from an objector. She outlined the Case officer’s response to the issues raised, including that DfI Roads had required a number of amendments to the application and that, during the processing of the application, an adjacent development on the lands had been approved by the Planning Appeals Commission, which required the application to be amended to take account of that committed development.
In relation to the social housing element, the Principal Planning officer explained that officers had since considered that a legal agreement might be more appropriate to secure the social housing use on the site. She explained that the Council’s Physical Programmes Department had confirmed that it was content that the sales contract for McClure Street could specifically state that the site could only be developed for social housing purposes.
She outlined that each dwelling benefitted from private garden amenity provision to the side and garden space to the front. Overall, the officers felt that the proposal respected its surrounding context and would not cause significant harm to the amenity of neighbouring properties and would provide sufficient amenity space for future occupants in accordance with the SPPS, PPS7 and its addendum and Creating Places.
In relation to parking, she pointed out that 20 in curtilage spaces were provided for the 20 separate dwelling units and an in curtilage space was provided for each of the 2 apartments, with 3 visitor spaces also provided within the apartment unit curtilage. She explained that, given that the site was on the boundary of the City Centre, adjacent to an arterial route and within an Area of Parking Restraint, where the requirement ratio of 1:1 parking was fulfilled, it was considered that adequate parking was provided.
A Member queried whether the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic had perhaps hindered the objectors making representation at the meeting. The Principal Planning officer reiterated that the scheme had been re-advertised and that neighbours had been re-notified in respect of the amendments and advised the Committee that the post and email systems were still being monitored by staff. No requests to speak in objection to the application had been received.
Further Members noted that the majority of the objections were from nearby office buildings and welcomed the scheme for much-needed social housing in the area, which met the required space standards and separation distances.
The Committee granted approval to the application, subject to the imposing of the conditions set out within the case officer’s report, and delegated power to the Director of Planning and Building Control for the final wording of the conditions and to secure an appropriate agreement, if required, with respect to securing the social housing use of the site.