Councillors go against Planners

Councillors have backed an  application for new housing off Coney Road in  Culmore despite Planners recommending the reject the proposals.
Councillors have backed an application for new housing off Coney Road in Culmore despite Planners recommending the reject the proposals.

Local councillors have rejected recommendations that they refuse planning permission for several housing developments in Derry - despite warnings over precedents being set.

Derry & Strabane Council’s Planning Committee voted by majority to go against the recommendation of Planners on a series of separate applications for private and social housing developments in Culmore and Eglinton.

The first application tabled at the meeting in Strabane on Wednesday night was from Brendan Loughran and Sons Ltd for 20 new houses north of Coneyville in Culmore.

A Planning Officer told the meeting that the site off Coney Road, was party inside and partly outside the limits for urban development as laid out in the Derry Area Plan. “Part of it is considered to be in the countryside,” she said, adding that many of the concerns raised by objectors underpinned the Planners’ own reasons for refusal.

She said the development was contrary to the Area Plan, and that there were no reasons presented as to why it could not be within the limits. Further reasons included the impact of odour from a meat processing plant and a water treatment works in the area.

Agent for the applicant, Sheila Murphy, however, told the committee that an updated odour assessment showed that the odour values were just marginally above limits and were “not detectable to the human nose.”

Alluding to previous planning permission for a smaller development on part of the site, she said the principal of development at the location was acknowledged.

Proposing the committee reject the planners’ recommendation to refuse, Sinn Fein Councillor Tony Hassan said that the treatment works had undergone £13m investment to bring it up to EU standards while the meat processing plant had also invested to bring odour levels down. He said there was a need for this type of housing in the area. The majority of councillors agreed with him and the planners’ recommendation was rejected.

A separate application for outline permission for 10 social housing units at Ballygudden Road in Eglinton lodged by JJ Developments/ Apex Housing was also listed with a recommendation for refusal.

The planning officer said the development was outside the area designated for development at Eglinton Village. She said there was available land within the limits that could accommodate up to 200 units,and that while there was an identified need for 30 social houses in Eglinton up to 2020 there had been no letter of support for the development form the Housing Executive (HE).

Agent for the applicants, Shaun Gallagher, however, said they had correspondence from the HE saying they were fully behind the proposals.

“There are young people living anywhere but Eglinton and they would love to live in their own area but they can’t afford it,” he said. He also rejected concerns raised over the potential for flood risk on part of the site and the planners’ assertions that there was other land available.

Proposing the committee go against the planners’ recommendation, Sinn Fein Colr. Christopher Jackson said he knew of people living in the Waterside because they can’t get housing in Eglinton.

Prior to the vote, Council Head of Planning, Maura Fox, said she wanted to remind the committee that “the whole principal of precedent is really important.

“It is not just in Eglinton, it will be every town, every village,” she warned, but the majority of committee members still voted to reject the planners’ recommendation.

A separate Eglinton application for 14 social housing units south east of Broadbridge Primary School was also recommended for refusal.

A planning officer said that this development was contrary to the local development plan as it lay outside of Eglinton Village and would result in urban sprawl. “It would create an undesirable precedent for development outside Eglinton and other villages,” she said.

Matt Kennedy, Agent for the applicants Apex Housing Association/Kevin Watson Group, however, said that there were 77 households on the waiting list from the area, 47 of them in housing stress.

“I have 40 letters in support of this application from local residents and people who want to live in Eglinton and can’t get back,” he said.

He said that there were no available sites for social housing because they could not compete with private developers outbidding them.

After Councillor Tony Hassan proposed the committee reject the planners ‘refusal’ recommendation, Maura Fox again said she would “urge caution” and that going against a recommendation could set a precedent other applicants would follow.

However, five councillors backed Colr. Hassan’s proposal, with one going against and the rest of the committee abstaining.