Dilapidated flats block to be replaced by modern homes

A dilapidated flats block in Waterside’s the Top of the Hill, is to be tumbled for a new modern development despite residents’ concerns about parking and congestion on the Strabane Old Road.

Monday, 10th June 2019, 5:03 pm
Updated Monday, 10th June 2019, 6:03 pm

EHA Group has been granted permission to knock down 12 Mimosa Court apartments overlooking the local thoroughfare and to build 27 new apartments on the site.

At a meeting of Derry City & Strabane District Council’s Planning Committee on Wednesday, Conor McGirr, of McGirr Architects, said the plan was to replace the existing block which he decribed as “dilapidated and in very poor condition.”

The ambition, he said, was to deliver “safe, secure apartments” and that all of the existing tenants would be “decanted into alternative accommodation by the owners.”

Mr. McGirr said traffic experts carried out a parking survey to plan for any additional demand that might arise from the increase of units from 12 to 27.

The experts found rear courtyards at Mimosa Court and Rose Court and on-street parking within 200 metres would sufficiently meet demand. Mr. McGirr pointed out that the Department for Infrastructure’s roads division had no objections to the plans.

It emerged that just one letter of objection to the proposal had been received since November and that that had been lodged on Tuesday, June 6.

The letter was submitted by Sinn Féin Councillor Paul Fleming - not a member of the committee - on behalf of residents. Colr. Fleming, who is from the area, wrote that the residents welcomed the proposed demolition saying it was the only “realistic solution” for the derelict block.

However, he wrote that locals wanted additional car parking to be included. They were also concerned about children’s safety with a play park located beside the court yards and parking on pavements on the Strabane Old Road already a problem forcing children onto a “very busy road,” he wrote. These concerns were aired by SDLP Councillor Angela Dobbins and Sinn Féin Councillor Patricia Logue at the meeting.

Colr. Dobbins observed that “Strabane Old Road is awful to get up and down” and said parking on both sides of the road was a habitual phenomenon. She said this made it difficult for people with disabilities to negotiate the pavements and, referring to the play park, she said: “Cars and children don’t mix.”

Colr. Logue said: “It’s not good enough to come in with an application without some proposal for car parking space.” Mr. McGirr said his client had submitted “robust evidence” in the form of the car parking surveys.

“They are the experts,” he stated.

Independent Colr. Paul Gallagher said he believed there was a “lot of negativty” surrounding the application from fellow councillors and suggested that if the redevelopment did not take place the council would likely be discussing “burnt our cars” rather than parking spaces and calling for regeneration in the future.

SDLP Colr. John Boyle said: “What the agent [Mr. McGirr]is saying is absolutely correct. The apartments are not, in my view, fit for habitation.”

He said it was important to strike a balance and acknowldged that DfI and the traffic surveyors had deemed the car parking supply sufficient.

DUP Alderman Hilary McClintock said the housing mix - nine 1-bed and 18 2-bed units - was much needed.

Head of Planning, Maura Fox, said it was important to bear a mind that this was a brownfield site and approvasl recommendation was struck on balance. It was approved by all but Colr. Logue, who opposed the development as it stood due the lack of parking provision.