Derry City and Strabane councillors have approved a planning application to convert the former Robert Sinclair & Co Shirt Factory on Abercorn Road into apartments.
At Wednesday’s meeting of the planning committee, held in Strabane, councillors were asked to approve the conversion which will see the former factory, which is a listed building, turned into apartment units, with terrace dwellings developed in Wapping Lane. The apartments will be studio, and one and two bedroom accommodations.
A right hand turning lane has also been proposed
Before the presentation was made, council officials announced that a second application relating to the factory had been made in the new year, and was due to be dealt with at next month’s planning meeting. The new application is for office facilities at the factory where up to 300 people will be employed, along with off-street car parking.
An announcement as to what commercial business will be in the factory is expected to be made in the next few weeks.
However councillors were reminded that the application before them this week was for residential use only.
“The building is in a bad state,” said one of the planners.
“Obviously we are reminded of what happened across the street and in John Street, where we now have two huge gap sites. If this opportunity is not taken there will be a third gap site. The city has already lost a lot of heritage.”
However there have been a number of objections to the proposal including over-intensification of traffic on the road, the impact of the area at the back of Aubrey Street and the size of the apartments proposed,
Planners pointed to a light test that had been carried out in Aubrey Street, and indicated that the roof on the development at the back of the factory would be lower.
The meeting heard from objectors Kyle Thompson and Pat McCafferty.
Mr Thompson said that 125 signatures had been gathered on a petition objecting to the development on the grounds of the potential social unrest as the plans were for a sectarian interface area.
Shaun Gallagher, speaking for the developers, told council he believed as the concerns of residents had been addressed.
He added that the development represented £5m of investment in an area of 29,000 sq feet.
He added that there was sense of urgency that the proposal from planners was approved today because there were concerns that the roof on the factory is near collapse and they needed to get on site the next day to start work immediately.
Hillary McClintock said the DUP had grave concerns given the 102 objections to the development.
“This is an interface area, and a parade route,” she said. “We keep hearing this claim that if we don’t approve this application today it will mean jobs won’t come to the city but we would be remiss not to take concerns into account. Maybe it would be wise as one of the speakers has suggested, to wait until the second application is in front of us.”
Councillors were again reminded that the only application they could consider was the one in front of them today - and not the one for the commercial site due to be considered at a later date.
Councillors agreed to recommend planning permission for the development subject to a number of conditions outlined by the planning department.
The Abercorn Road building is owned by Derry-based Martin Construction.