Agenda item


The Principal Planning officer outlined the details of the application, which was located within the development limits of Belfast city centre, to the Members.


He explained the key issues which had been considered during the assessment of the proposal, including the principle of use on the site, demolition, access, movement and parking, design and layout, open space and landscaping, flood risk, waste water treatment, impact on natural heritage and developer contributions.


The proposal had been assessed against and was considered to comply with the Strategic Planning Policy Statement for Northern Ireland (SPPS), Belfast Urban Area Plan 2001 (BUAP), Draft Belfast Metropolitan Area Plan 2015 (BMAP), Planning Policy Statement (PPS) 2, PPS 3, PPS 8, PPS 13, PPS 15, PPS 16, Parking Standards, The Belfast Agenda (Community Plan), Developer Contribution Framework, and Creating Places.


The Members were advised that Environmental Health, NI Water, DFI Roads Service, DFI Rivers Agency, DAERA Water Management Unit, DAERA Regulation Unit and DAERA Natural Environment Division had raised no objections subject to conditions and that the proposal was considered acceptable.


The Members noted that the application had been neighbour notified and advertised in the local press. It was reported that additional information and amendments had been received during the processing of the application in response to requests for clarification from consultees and that re-notification of objectors and neighbours had been undertaken following receipt of such. The Principal Planning officer explained that two objections had been received from local residents, raising the following issues:


·        lack of parking;

·        noise during construction and parking obstructions;

·        noise from prospective residents;

·        loss of light;

·        loss of privacy; and

·        height and density disproportionate to the area


            The issues had been addressed within the Case officer’s report.


He outlined that, whilst the proposal did not fall under the category of Major Development, Pre-Application Community Consultation had been carried out, as it was initially proposed to comprise more than 50 apartments. The Members were advised that the feedback given had been generally positive.


            The Principal Planning officer reported that 35 of the apartments would have a balcony and, together with the amenity space on the third floor and the rooftop terrace, the level of private open space was comparable with other developments in the area.  He explained that, overall, an average of 6.87 sqm of amenity provision per unit was proposed which, whilst below the recommended minimum standard of 10 sqm, it was comparable to other developments within the city centre and, on balance, was considered acceptable.


            A Member stated that they had some concerns with the proposal, namely:


·        the relationship of the proposal with Salisbury Lane, particularly in relation to the risk of overlooking;

·        the height of the proposal in relation to its immediate neighbours, both the residential neighbours to the rear, and the restaurant beside it;

·        whether there an area-based policy for the Dublin Road;

·        the suitability of the site for residential use, given the lively nighttime economy and its close proximity to a bar.


            In response, the Principal Planning officer presented further images of the site and its context within the Dublin Road.  He advised the Committee that:


·        the height differential between the proposal and the ridge height of the restaurant immediately beside it would be approximately 8.7metres and that step up was something that already existed along the Dublin Road which was not out of keeping with its context;

·        there were a number of different building heights established along the Dublin Road and that was the context in which they had considered the application;

·        the design of the rear return and the angled windows was as such to protect the amenity of residential properties to the rear of the site;

·        the site was located within BMAP’s designated Shaftesbury Square Character Area, where the building heights ranged from five to seven storeys fronting the Dublin Road, and that officers felt that the proposal was acceptable given that the eighth storey was set back, and that it was in keeping with the context of other taller buildings along the Dublin Road; and

·        he did not believe that the proposal would result in the hemming in of, or substantially impact upon, the adjacent residential areas;

·        in respect of the suitability of the site for residential use, he explained that there were a number of residential properties surrounding the site, it was a mixed-use area and that Environmental Health had no objections to the proposal, subject to conditions relating to noise proofing and fenestration.


            A Member asked for further clarification in relation to Policy OS2 of PPS8, whereby an exception was allowed for apartments within the city centre.  The Principal Planning officer outlined that most recent approval for the site opposite had been for a mixed-use 10 storey building comprising 85 apartments, which would provide an average of 5.59 square metres per unit while the current application would provide 8 square metres.  He explained that the level of private open space was therefore comparable with other developments in the area and was also in close proximity to existing areas of open space within reasonable walking distance, including Botanic Gardens.


            Accordingly, the Chairperson put the officer’s recommendation that the Members of the Committee recommend that, in accordance with the Council decision of 4th May 2021, the Chief Executive would exercise her delegated authority to grant approval to the application, subject to conditions, with power delegated to the Director of Planning and Building Control to finalise the Section 76 Planning Agreement and the wording of conditions subject to no new substantive planning issues being raised by third parties.


            On a vote, five Members voted in favour of the recommendation and two against and it was declared carried.


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