The Committee was advised that an email had been received, on 16th May, from Mr. G. Magee, Quantum Law Solicitors Ltd. advising that, given the short notice of when the application was added to the Committee agenda, Counsel Robert McCausland was unable to attend the meeting. Mr. Magee had requested that the application be deferred to allow a short period of time for them to prepare a summary of objections. The Committee did not accede to the request to defer and agreed to consider the application before it.
The Committee was advised that the application was previously approved by the Planning Committee at its meeting on 20th April 2021. The Principal Planning officer explained that that decision had been subject to a judicial review, which was ultimately conceded by officers upon counsel’s advice. The grounds of challenge in the judicial review application had alleged, inter alia, that the Council had failed to take into account material considerations, and that the decision was flawed for the following reasons:
1. the report had failed to bring to the attention of the Planning Committee various correspondence;
2. the report had misled the Committee as to DFI’s final consultation position;
3. the failure to conduct a Transport Assessment;
4. the consultation with DFI Roads had been inadequate;
5. failure to deal with the issue of inadequate parking provision; and
6. that the Committee had failed to scrutinise and enquire into the planning application before making its decision.
The Principal Planning officer advised the Members that, essentially, the issue in question had related to parking provision at the site. DfI Roads had initially objected to the application on the basis of insufficient parking and had requested a whole suite of information from the applicant. The information was not provided and, whilst DfI had subsequently indicated that they considered the application a significantly like for like replacement, it did not formally withdraw its initial objection or request for information. The judicial review was conceded on the basis that the case officer’s report had inadvertently failed to accurately present DfI Roads’ position on the planning application which had led the Committee intoerror.
Further to the quashing of the original decision, the Committee was advised that officers had reconsidered the proposed development.
The Principal Planning officer outlined the details of the application to the Committee.
The Members were advised that a Transport Statement, prepared by Karen McShane Transport Consultant, had been submitted by the applicant following the decision of the court.
The Principal Planning officer outlined that the Council had reconsulted with all previous consultees and re-notified all neighbours and objectors, as per statutory requirements. Further to comments from consultees and review by the case officer, further additional information was submitted, including proposed floor plans and proposed site drainage layout.
The Members were advised that one additional objection had been received, querying what plans were under consideration. The Principal Planning officer outlined that drawing numbers were confirmed and superseded following the objection. She explained that further consultation and neighbournotification had also taken place following the comments.
The Committee was advised that a Transport Statement Rebuttal had been submitted, prepared by Systra Ltd on behalf of an objector, Fernmount Trading (NI) Ltd. That document cited a number of concerns, including that:
· a vast majority of customers would travel by car. It was unlikely that customers would walk or use public transport;
· effective parking on the site was currently limited and due to existing constraints, there was no opportunity to increase the number of spaces;
· the proposed parking layout was not a realistic representation of what could be achieved, as many of the spaces were not accessible or, if occupied, would create bottlenecks and an unsafe environment for customers walking to and from their vehicles;
· the existing PFS forecourt was already congested and unsafe, leading to vehicles queuing on the Stewartstown Road;
· any increase in vehicle movements associated with the proposed development would have a detrimental impact on road safety;
· the proposed development was contrary to Policies AMP 1, AMP 7 and AMP 9 of PPS 3.
The Committee was advised that DFI Roads had responded to the Council’s consultation request on 27th January 2022, offering no objections to the proposal. However, the Council had re-consulted DFI Roads on 5th April, requesting further comments and an explanation as to why previously requested information from their response of 9th September 2020 was no longer necessary.
The Principal Planning officer explained that a further response from DFI Roads was received on 10th May 2022. In conclusion, DFI Roads had advised that it maintained its position of previous consultation response of 27th January 2022, in that no objections were offered. They advised that the information requested in their response of 9th September 2020 did not take account what weight should have been given to the extant planning permission and that the previous request for information was no longer appropriate.
In relation to site drainage, NIEA Water Management Unit (WMU) had provided comment on the proposed development and had requested a full site drainage plan to enable assessment of the impact of the proposal on the surface water environment. WMU had provided a specific list of information to be included within the site drainage plan and also enquired if vehicle washing was due to take place on the site.
In response, the agent provided Drawing No. 8 – Proposed site drainage plan. WMU had been consulted further and it had advised that, whilst it had no objection in principle, it had requested further details. As WMU had no objection in principle, it was requested that delegated authority be given to officers to deal with the outstanding matter. If WMU changed its view and/or any water management issues cannot be resolved, the application would be returned to Committee for further consideration.
The Members’ attention was drawn to the Late Items pack, whereby it was noted that there were two other current applications under consideration in relation to the application site:
· LA04/2021/2212/F – Retrospective permission single storey temporary shop facility; and
· LA04/2021/2211/A - Shop signage and advertising boards to temporary shop.
A new drawing had also been received from the agent, Drawing No. 09 – Existing Site layout (car parking). The site layout showed the existing parking layout (pre fire). The layout showed 24 parking spaces within the application site.
The Chairperson welcomed Mr. J. Scally, Carlin Planning, who was speaking on behalf of Fernmount Trading and Sharp NI Ltd., the owners of Beckett’s bar, which was directly adjacent to the site and who were objecting to the application. He advised the Committee that:
· they had consistently objected to the proposed scheme during the previous and current period;
· the previous decision had resulted in a Judicial Review of the Planning Committee’s decision to approve, at significant expense to the objectors;
· the JR had been successful;
· the objectors remained concerned that DFI Roads’ position was not being accurately portrayed to the Committee;
· the objectors felt that their concerns were not being taken seriously by neither the Council nor by DFI Roads, which was evident in the conflicting consultation responses from DFI Roads over the determination period;
· the increase in floorspace had been misrepresented at the first Committee meeting;
· DFI Roads’ position remained misinformed and confused – in its response of 9th September 2020 it stated that it had not taken on board the weight of the extant planning permission in that the developer could rebuild exactly what had been on site previously. That argument was fundamentally flawed, as the shop had been demolished after a fire in 2017 and the new application needed to consider the current circumstances;
· the objectors believed that the redevelopment of the unit, with a significantly larger unit, did not justify its approval, especially given that the parking arrangements had been substandard in the first place;
· they requested clarity on how many car parking spaces were being provided, as it was not clear from the report;
· in April 2022, an updated site plan had been uploaded onto the Portal, indicating an increase to the parking spaces – it was apparent that DFI Roads had not seen or commented on the latest parking layout, which was a serious concern given that it had previously stated that, if the site was to accommodate any more parking, it would have a negative impact on the safe manoeuvring of pedestrians and vehicles;
· the Glider route operated along the Stewartstown Road and no on-street parking was permitted along the Glider route;
· no consideration had been given to overflow parking in adjacent businesses, which was a material consideration;
· a Transport Statement Rebuttal had been submitted on behalf of the objector, prepared by Systra Ltd – which provided photographic evidence of the congestion on site, prior to the new retail unit becoming operational. It also showed a clear knock-on impact to pedestrian and highway safety, contrary to policy AMP 2;
· Systra Ltd had also raised fundamental concerns with the layout whereby 38 car parking spaces were proposed on site and nor did it meet the required design standards; and
· the proposals were contrary to policies AMP 1, AMP 7, AMP 9 and AMP 2.
The Chairperson then welcomed Ms. K. McShane, Transport Consultant for the applicant, and Ms. M. O’Loan, solicitor, to the meeting.
Together they advised the Committee that:
· the photographs submitted by Systra Ltd showed the temporary building which was currently on site and that it was important to note that the unit was located where a number of additional parking spaces would ordinarily be and, as a result, there was currently much less parking than what would be provided under the current application or, indeed, what was there previously;
· DFI Roads had given detailed consideration to the proposal and had concluded that there wasn’t a safety concern;
· the planning history of the site should be given significant weight;
· the proposal constituted a modest increase in floorspace from what had been on the site before the fire; and
· DFI Roads had been re-consulted and that it was content that it had, in fact, considered the most updated parking layout and that it had no road safety concerns and no amenity issues.
The Chairperson invited Mr. Scally to address any factual inaccuracies which he felt needed addressed.
Mr Scally advised the Committee that he had referenced 17 car parking spaces with 6 additional spaces at the petrol pumps, and that that was the situation before the fire and not what was on site currently. He added that a 45% increase in the retail floorspace was not a modest increase. He reiterated that he believed that DFI Roads had not commented on the latest site plan, revision 4B.
The Principal Planning officer clarified to the Committee that DFI Roads had stated in its consultation response that the petrol filling station did not require permission and that that was incorrect. However, what it had referred to was that there was a consistent planning history on the site with 24 parking spaces prior to the fire and that it had concentrated on the additionality of the 88 square metres and that it would require the additional 6 spaces which could be found in the surrounding area. She advised the Committee that the 17 car parking spaces which Mr Scally had referred to was referenced within the old report, which had been included within the reports pack for background information.
The Divisional Solicitor clarified that, if the Committee was to approve the application, delegated authority should also be given to the Director of Planning and Building Control in relation to the previously raised water management issue.
The Committee approved the application and granted delegated authority to the Director of Planning and Building Control to finalise the wording of the conditions and to address the water management issue.