Derry allotment decision deferred for contaminated land risk report

Vegetables (file pic)
Vegetables (file pic)

A decision on whether to allow allotments to remain at a Derry industrial estate has been deferred pending a report to determine if the land there is contaminated.

Planners had recommended to Derry & Strabane’s Planning Committee that the application to retain the existing allotments and storage sheds at Carrakeel Drive, Maydown Industrial Estate, be refused.

Speaking at the committee’s monthly meeting in the Guildhall on Wednesday, a Planning officer said that the allotments were in an area zoned for industrial use.

She said that there had been several letters of support for the applicant, with people stating the allotments had a positive effect on depression, mental health and lifestyle as well as providing access to fresh vegetables.

She said that the Environmental Health Service had raised concerns, however, due to previous land uses in the vicinity, namely a gravel pit and factory, meaning they were “unable to determine whether the site is, or can be, made suitable for use as allotments.”

The EHS requested that the applicant submits a contaminated land risk assessment to ascertain any potential risk to human health, she told the committee and while a report was submitted, it identified a need for further assessment.

She said that planners had asked for this second report six times, but the applicant was seeking assurances that his application would be acceptable in principal if he ordered the report which, it was said during the meeting, could cost up to £10,000. Planners said that they could not provide any such assurance.

DUP Councillor Hilary McClintock said that she had “great sympathy” for the gardeners, while SDLP Colr. Gus Hastings said the allotments were used by people of all ages.

“I know some of the people who have taken allotments down there and they enjoy themselves. The fact remains these people will have no other recreational outlet. It’s a community enterprise serving the community and from that perspective I am proposing we overturn the refusal,” he said.

Sinn Fein Colr. Patricia Logue, however, cautioned that they needed to be confident they were “not giving permission to something that is going to be detrimental to people’s health in the long run.”

“We would all be liable,” she said. “If anything like that happened and it was established that we had all this information in front of us we wouldn’t have a leg to stand on.

Colr. Logue suggested a deferral and that there might be community representatives that could help signpost towards getting the resources together to fund the report.

Chair of the Committee, Sinn Fein Colr. Dan Kelly urged his colleagues to focus on planning policy and not to get caught up in emotional aspects of the case.

SDLP Colr. John Boyle agreed with Colr. Logue’s proposal to defer the matter, while stating that the allotments in Maydown demonstrated an imaginative use of land.

He added that other industrial sites could also benefit from creative enterprises.

Agreeing to defer a decision, the committee has given the applicant three months in which to produce the report required.