The Planning Manager pointed out that the application had been considered by the Committee on 17th August, 2021 and that the Committee had recommended that the Chief Executive exercise her delegated authority to approve the application on the basis that the principle of housing was acceptable at that location, subject to the outstanding assessments on roads, drainage, contamination, air quality and noise having been submitted to, and considered acceptable, by the Committee at a future meeting. He informed the Committee that the Chief Executive’s decision had corresponded with the Committees recommendation and that the applicant had, since, submitted a series of reports and that neither DfI Rivers nor BCC Environmental Health had offered any objection to the proposal.
He reported that DfI Roads had continued to object to the application and that NI Water had also submitted an objection to the proposal. He added that DAERA NIEA and Shared Environmental Services had been consulted following NI Water’s objection and both agencies had advised that there had been no clear evidence that the proposal would have a harmful environmental impact, and that Shared Environmental Services had recommended a condition that would prevent commencement of works until agreement had been reached with NI Water.
He provided the Committee with an update in relation to the following areas:
· Drainage and flood risk;
· Infrastructure capacity;
· Ecological impacts;
· Impact on human health;
· Access, parking and transport;
· Design and layout; and
· Belfast LDP Draft Plan Strategy.
The Planning Manager pointed out that the applicant had indicated that Newington Housing Association had been identified as the preferred Housing Association partner and discussions with the association were ongoing.
He informed the Committee that, although the additional information which had been provided by the applicant had addressed the objections which had been raised by Environmental Health with regard to noise conflict and DfI Rivers with regard to drainage, significant concerns remained with respect to the appropriateness of the proposal in relation to the principle of residential development on a retail park, design and highway safety.
He stated that the application had been recommended for refusal, and outlined the following reasons for refusal:
· Loss of land on a zoned retail park;
· Highway safety;
· Detriment to the character and appearance of the area;
· Unacceptable living environment for residents; and
· Failure to promote safety and surveillance.
The Chairperson welcomed Mr. B. Kingston MLA to the meeting. Mr. Kingston stated that he objected to the planning application on the basis that the proposal was sited in the corner of a car park of a retail park beside a busy access road and an interface wall which would create a very poor living environment.
He pointed out that the application had been recommended for refusal in 2021 and again in 2022 and that it would compromise the retail function of Hillview Retail Park and be served by an unsafe vehicular access which supported access to the retail park and would endanger occupants. He stated that the proposed development would provide an unsuitable and undesirable living environment for occupants.
He added that there had been significant progress within the retail park since 2021 with the addition of numerous retail outlets and it was well used by all sides of the community and could make a significant and growing contribution to the area as a shared centre for retail and employment.
The Committee agreed to hear from the applicants in respect of the application, having regard to their previous representation when the application had been considered by the Committee at its meeting on 17th August, 2021. The Chairperson welcomed Mr. H. McConnell, RPP Architects, to the meeting and stated that Mr. G. Lawther and Mr K. Murray, DfI Roads, were present and available to answer questions from Members.
Mr. McConnell stated that he was speaking on behalf of the applicant in support of the application. He stated that, in 2021, the Committee had recognised the chronic shortage of housing in the area of the city and following the Committees decision the applicant had commissioned a series of reports and made a number of submissions to the Council to address the outstanding assessments which had been identified. He stated that the DfI Rivers, DAERA Waste Management Unit and Environment Health have withdrawn their previous objections and acknowledged that, while NI Water had offered no objection in 2021, it had since raised an objection with regard to sewer capacity but had not provided any supporting information.
He informed the Committee that Planning had restated its objection based on the Draft Belfast Metropolitan Area Plan siting that the site would conflict with retail uses on the site and the proposal would reduce the land available within the retail park. He stated that the applicant had discussed the issue with existing and potential tenants and that none had identified any issue with part of the site being utilised for residential accommodation.
He outlined the applicant’s response to concerns which had been raised by DfI Roads in relation to the retail park’s existing entrance junction and the access road and highlighted that the existing junction was used daily by staff, customers and delivery vehicles and that no issues with speeding or complaints from pedestrians crossing at the junction had been raised.
With regard to rat running, he stated that no evidence had been put forward to support that there was an issue in the area.
He concluded by stating that there was still a need for social housing in the area, in particular family homes and urged Members to acknowledge the efforts which had been made by the applicant and Newington Housing Association to address the outstanding issues and to take a balanced decision to support the much-needed housing development
In response to a question from a Member with regard to the access to the site, Mr. Murray stated that DfI Roads could not determine, for adoption, any area outside the applicant’s control and that the location plan had not been amended so the applicant did not have authority to deliver the access road and until a revised drawing had been submitted, DfI Roads could not provide an access road to the proposed development. He emphasised that the current access had been provided for commercial purposes and not for a residential scheme.
A Member asked Mr McConnell to clarify the position on the red line of the location plan and he responded by stating that the applicant would be more than happy to provide an amended site plan, if required. The Planning Manager advised that it would be procedurally possible for the Council to receive an amended site location plan where the revision was to incorporate additional land for access purposes.
Moved by Councillor Murphy,
Seconded by Councillor Maskey,
That consideration of the application would be deferred to allow time for the applicant to submit an amended site location plan and further revised proposals seeking to address DFI Road’s objection to alleviate the safety concerns that DfI Roads had raised.
On a vote, eight Members voted for the proposal and five against and it was declared carried.