Green light for health hub and supermarket at Arntz site

An image from a video showing how the Medical Hub might look on site. (McGurran Associates Limited)
An image from a video showing how the Medical Hub might look on site. (McGurran Associates Limited)

Those behind a huge development at the former Arntz site in Derry have said they are “very happy” full planning permission has now been granted.

Derry & Strabane’s Planning Committee yesterday unanimously gave the go ahead for the Pennyburn proposals, which include a 6,901 sqm Medical Building, a 5,574 sqm food superstore, restaurant, self-service petrol station and extensive parking facilities.

The Arntz Belting factory site at Pennyburn which has been earmarked for a major redevelopment. (1611MM7)

The Arntz Belting factory site at Pennyburn which has been earmarked for a major redevelopment. (1611MM7)

The plans will create over 300 new jobs and a further 200 to 300 construction jobs.

Commenting after a special meeting in the Guildhall yesterday, Robert Moore, Managing Director of the planning applicants Arntz Belting Company Ltd, told the ‘Journal:’ “We are very happy it has been approved and it is our intention now to push on as quickly as possible to get action going on the site and we will be talking seriously with our investor now.

“We have said over the last 10 years since we shut the factory that we are committed to doing something there and it has cost us considerable money, millions upon millions to keep a presence here when we are not producing.

“It was always Arntz’s intention to leave the legacy and we are not reneging on that. We have seen it to conclusion and we are looking forward to seeing something done with that area, which in my opinion is going to be very beneficial to the people of that area, particularly health,” he added.

Charlie Hegarty, representing the development company taking on the 15-acre site, Proficio Holdings, said it too was pleased full planning permission has now been granted.

Mr. Hegarty said: “We are very happy now that this has got across the line and it allows us to conclude any negotiations we have been involved in over the last number of years.

“Hopefully we will get those all concluded very soon and get up and running and get the project under way.”

The entire development was previously granted planning permission in January, 2018, under a similar application but this was quashed after a legal challenge by Lidl, resulting in a fresh application being submitted and considered.

There had been 79 objections and five letters of support and planners told the committee yesterday that consultees were satisfied with the proposals to develop existing junctions and roundabouts along the Buncrana Road and surrounding areas to limit traffic and congestion impact.

The new site will be accessed via both Pennyburn Pass and Pennyburn Industrial Estate road.

Amendments to the plans have also meant the flood risk from a potential catastrophic event at Creggan Reservoir was also now very limited.

The committee was told the three-floor medical building is based on the NHS integrated health care model.

Planners stated that it is initially being proposed that the facility will house GPs and Practice Nurses, Community Nurses, Occupational Therapists, Physiotherapists and Home Help/Support Staff.

“The provision of this element of the mixed use scheme would secure a location for a much needed and desired concentration of community health and social care services that do not necessarily require a hospital setting,” Planners concluded in their report.

A Retail Impact Assessment meanwhile had found the new supermarket would have limited impact on existing businesses - particularly as previous planning permissions for supermarkets in Springtown and Crescent Link have now expired - and attract more expenditure into the city.

Dermot Monaghan from MBA Planning, acting on behalf of Lidl, yesterday raised objections to the new planning application, claiming that it should not have been recommended for approval on several fronts.

Mr Monaghan said that over the last four years while the application has been in the system “there has never been any suggestion a tenant has been secured.” He also pointed to permissions granted for other supermarket sites which never came to fruition which, he said, had had a knock-on impact on other potential developments which were then refused or withdrawn.

Under questioning from councillors, the applicant’s agent Kevin McGurran, from McGurran Associates, told councillors that due to commercial sensitivity he could not give any further details on negotiations over a tenants for the supermarket or the medical hub, adding that they hoped to start work on site by the end of the year.

“This site is a mixed use scheme providing major regeneration opportunities for Derry.

“It is frustrating this major economic regeneration initiative has been delayed by 12 months as we had thought to be on site by now.”

Derry & Strabane Council unanimously backed SDLP Colr. Gus Hastings’s proposal to approve planning permission for the Arntz Site Development.

Seconding this, Sinn Fein Colr. Caoimhe McKnight said: “That area is in dire need of total regeneration.

“With the coming redevelopment of the A2 (Buncrana Road) this will be a massive benefit in the long term. The city does need massive regeneration and this will go a long way towards that,” she added.

The chair of the Council’s Planning Committee, Independent Councillor Warren Robinson said: “This is good news story for Derry and a very positive regeneration opportunity that will not only bring about new jobs for the city and wider area, but will see the development and regeneration of a large vacant and derelict site in the heart of the city.”

SDLP Colr. Brian Tierney praised the patience of the developers and said the proposals will bring significant employment and economic development to the city.

“Fears among local residents about the impact on traffic in an already congested area should be allayed by the massive improvements that will be made to the local road network as a consequence of the development,” Colr. Tierney added.

Meanwhile, Tommy Mullan from Galliagh Residents Association, who attended yesterday’s meeting, said: “I have campaigned for a medical centre in the cityside for years and this will take the pressure off Altnagelvin. This will also be bringing hundreds of jobs. We have too many eyesores in Derry so and it will be great to see a development there.”