Derry reps urged to address railway expansion fears at new flats site
Campaigners are calling on Derry and Strabane Council’s elected representatives to back a motion preventing a building that it claims would ‘destroy rail expansion across the North West’.
In April 2021 Clanmil housing association won a planning appeal to build 39 apartments on Victoria Road in Derry’s Waterside close to Craigavon Bridge.
The riverside site sits on the trackbed of a railway route that ran from Derry to Strabane until 1955.
The Council’s Planning Committee had rejected Clanmil’s application in March 2021 – but the former railway trackbed was not listed amongst reasons for refusal. Clanmil appealed to the NI Planning Appeals Commission - which granted them permission to build on the site.
Into The West claimed the project was ‘a disaster for transport in the North-West’. They describe the site that Clanmil want to build on as being vital to continue rail south from Derry’s Waterside Station. The housing complex, they contend, would make it ‘extremely unlikely we will ever see rail restored from Derry to Strabane or Letterkenny again – which would mean no direct rail services from Derry or Donegal through to Dublin, and no chance of returning trains to Enniskillen either’.
‘Into The West’ said they have spent the last year liaising with council officers, the Department for Infrastructure and Clanmil on a range of possible solutions that would ensure any building created on the Victoria Road site would not prevent future rail expansion, and a motion has been submitted ahead of this afternoon’s (Thursday) meeting of the Full Council by People Before Profit Councillor Maeve O’Neill.
The motion lists three potential solutions for council to pursue with Clanmil: 1) A redesign of the proposed building so rail can travel through the site in future, 2) Purchase of the site, and 3) A land swap to enable Clanmil to build their apartments elsewhere.
Chair of Into The West, Steve Bradley, said: “The motion spells out very clearly the range of alternative options we believe the council should be pursuing with Clanmil, and mandates officers to take the lead in doing so.
Responding to Into the West’s comments, a spokesperson for Clanmil told the Journal: “The planned development at Victoria Road in the city is good news for those who are in need of a home. With the demand for housing in the Derry and Strabane area continuing to rise, these new homes will play a key role in easing the pressure on housing waiting lists, providing people with a place to make their own.
“Whilst we continue to progress the delivery of these much-needed homes we remain open to further engagement with all key stakeholders including Derry City and Strabane District Council, the Department for Infrastructure and members of the Into the West group.”