The application site is some 11.5 hectares of lands located north of Aileach Road, Ennis Place, John Field Place, Rafferty Close, Macneise Close and Magill Court, Ballymagroarty.
It consists of a residential development with associated open space, including a community parkland, pedestrian linkages, access and associated works.
Part of the site is located outside the settlement limits of the city and the remaining part of the site is on land zoned as Existing Recreation and Open Space.
Members were informed this proposal would result in the loss of 2.75 hectares of zoned recreation and open space land.
Gemma Jobling, agent for applicant, APEX Housing Association and Braidwater Ltd told the committee that APEX ‘is seeking to provide a sympathetic extension to the Ballymagroarty neighbourhood to meet urgent housing needs’.
She said: ‘This will provide social housing in a deprived ward. The west bank is an area of housing need with a list of 2885.
“This is within the top five wards of deprivation in this city yet this community has not had any investment in its housing stock in 40 years. Apex is committed to delivering social housing for Ballymagroarty.”
SDLP Councillor Angela Dobbins spoke about the need outweighing the officer’s interpretation of the PPS8, the policy for Open Space, Sport and Outdoor Recreation, adding: “There is community support and there is a community benefit with these houses”.
Proposing the planning officers recommendation to refuse is not accepted, Sinn Fein Councillor Patricia Logue said: “I’ve looked very carefully at this application and I would like to propose we approve this application. This application substantially outweighs the loss of any open space as there’s no significant detrimental impact. There is a positive benefit to the community, especially those on the waiting list for housing in that area.”
Councillor Dobbins seconded the proposal before Committee Chair, Councillor John Boyle offered a word of caution.
He said: “Before we go to the vote I want to reflect on a couple of things. Planning policies as I see them in relation to a situation like this because they exist to future proof open space so then you’re beginning to balance short term gain against long term gain.
“Bearing in mind some of the examples of long term gain we can see in our city and district I find myself imagining if we had gone for short term gain over long term gain then we would not have Marianus Glen, we may well not have Kilfennan Country Park, we might not have the Creggan Burn Park, we might not have Ballyarnett Country Park if people had gone for short term gain 15 odd years ago and I think that’s what the officers are saying.”
Committee members voted in favour of approving the application against the recommendation of the officers with nine for, one against and two abstentions.
Local Democracy Reporter