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Bump in the road in plans for major housing development

Tuesday, 4 April 2017

Bump in the road in plans for major housing development thumbnailTHE narrow road on Doran's Hill.

A SITE for the development of 200 homes has been acquired by local businessman Brian McConville.

However, the MJM owner has encountered a bump in the road with the application. Discussions are ongoing with Transport NI regarding financial assistance for footpaths on the road to the development before planning permission is approved.

It comes as a number of residents' groups objected to planning permission being granted when the application came before the planning meeting last week on the basis that "the local infrastructure was inadequate" and there was "a lack of footpath provision".

Councillors on the Newry, Mourne and Down District Council planning committee last Wednesday (29 March) agreed there were some issues with the application and deferred it so these talks between the applicant and Transport NI can take place.

Colin O'Callaghan, a planning consultant on behalf of Mr McConville, told the committee that Mr McConville would approach the meeting "with an open mind".

The councillors decision to defer came after they heard their Area Planning Manager, Anthony McKay, approve the plans for the 200 houses.

Mr McKay said that "a comprehensive report" had been compiled on this application.

He added that the site which the houses have been proposed for has been "zoned for residential development for some considerable time".

“It has undergone detailed consideration and amendment and it is considered to be acceptable in planning terms, hence the recommendation to approve," said Mr McKay.

The previous applicant for the application was Lotus Group and KPMG however Mr O'Callaghan told the committee that the site had now been acquired by Mr McConville.

A representativhhhhe representing Brannock Close Residents, Watsons Road and Barcroft Community Association told the committee that if planning approval for this application was granted "it would be a health and safety risk".

They said that there is a "hazardous bottleneck at the bottom of Doran's Hill" and that "in agreement with the Planning Appeals Commission, no development should take place until all the works on the adjoining road network are completed".

The committee heard that with permission being sought for 200 homes - 61 detached, 126 semi-detached and 13 townhouses - on lands at Watsons Road/Dorans Hill that there could possible be an additional 400 cars on the road on a daily basis.

Mr McKay reminded Councillors that Transport NI had no objections to the plans however the planners did stipulate that all the work to the road network would have to be completed by phase three of the development, however the residents want all this work completed before work can progress on the site.

Mr McKay said that "in an ideal world, the planning authority would be in a position to present an all encompassing position", adding that at present, it would be "unreasonable for the council to withhold permission".

Councillor Declan McAteer said that the potential for 400 cars is "a hell of a lot on a narrow road".

He reminded the committee that they had conditions implemented on the Greencastle Ferry application which saw all the roadworks being carried out before the development works commenced on site.

While Mr McKay recognised that "residents are not content with this", he said that there was only so much that the planning authority can do but that on balance it was as good as it can get. "We are generally content and we should be recommending approval."

Mr O'Callaghan said that Mr McConville will "step up to the mark with infrastructure and will endeavour and will continue to speak with various residents and people on the ground".

Councillor Mickey Larkin said that the road is a "potential death trap" and that the narrow road was was "the main issue" he could see with the development.

However while Mr O'Callaghan said that he knew where Councillor Larkin was coming from, there was "only so much we can do as Transport NI have the statutory powers".

Mr McKay then reminded councillors that this issue "goes beyond the scope that we (the planing authority) are being asked to consider".

Councillor Larkin proposed that the application is deferred so that a conversation can take place between Mr McConville and Transport NI in relation to the possibility of Mr McConville making a financial contribution towards providing a footpath for the residents.

While it was the Councillors decision about what to do with the application, their Area Planning Manager said that the planners would "like to see this off the books to meet performances".

He reminded councillors that the planning authority or councillors "are not road engineers" and if Transport NI had approved the application with no objections, then it must be satisfactory.

However Councillor Larkin said that the council are the "local authority on the health and safety and well-being of the residents of the district".

The application will come before the planning committee once again for determination once this meeting has taken place.

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