A local woman said she wanted to construct a new tourism facility along the River Faughan after she fell in love with the area, as she addressed objections to the plans by the Faughan Anglers’ Association.
Derry & Strabane District Council’s Planning Committee has now given the green light for Catherine Deery’s proposal for six “cottage style” flats in two blocks and landscape works, along with a manager’s dwelling and car parking. The new development is designed to provide a fishing tourism facility at Crossballycormick opposite Lismacarrol Road/Glenshane Road.
Addressing the committee’s monthly meeting last week, a planning officer said they were recommending approval, as the plans were similar to others which have already been approved, the foundations for which had been laid on site.
The manager’s dwelling, car parking and pathways will be moved further away from the River Faughan under the new plans, the officer said.
Planners confirmed that most agencies consulted had no objections beyond the conditions and restrictions already in place.
There were objections, however, centred around the planning process in relation to the application and the fact that theRiver Faughan Anglers had not provided a letter of support and do not have a mechanism whereby permits can be issued to those using this accommodation.
Referring to the proposed use of the tourism facility, Dean Blackwood from the Faughan Anglers said that it was actually illegal to fish the river for seven months of the year and while it was legal to fish the Faughan from May 20 to October 20, in reality the angling season for most fishing enthusiasts would be two to three months.
“Without an economic appraisal how can this committee be satisfied it is viable?” he asked, adding later: “How do you know this is going to work? Is the applicant setting themselves up for failure?”
He also claimed that issues around environmental assessment remained unclear.
SDLP Councillor John Boyle responded that the issue of viability was at the applicant’s risk, but added that the committee should note Mr Blackwood’s concerns around the process for future reference.
Mr Blackwood also claimed that the development was designed to accommodate residential use, something the applicant rejected.
Catherine Deery said that they had worked to ensure that “every condition imposed on us we have met.”
She described the application as an “investment promoting the rural area,” which supported tourism and would create a small number of jobs, adding that it also “seeks to ensure and support the protection of the natural habitat.”
She added: “Tourism has risen significantly and I am about bringing people to this area. For me personally I fell in love with this area from 2006. We wanted to invest back into the community and develop lands that can be used by the wider community. I personally love the area and I personally want to showcase the area.”
She told the committee she had been very keen to ensure access for all, but that disabled fishermen stands erected on the site had to be removed because of objections.
She added that she had sought to engage with the objectors at every juncture, adding that she hoped there would be an opportunity in the future to work with the anglers to see what would be appropriate and acceptable to them in terms of fishing stands for disabled access.
SDLP Councillor Angela Dobbins described the proposals as “a very innovative” idea, while DUP Colr. Hilary McClintock described the proposals as “very exciting.”
Sinn Fein Colr. Christopher Jackson said it was very obvious the applicant “has a clear passion for the area”.
SDLP Colr. Tina Gardiner meanwhile said: “It is great to see opportunities for tourism and beds in the city and it is something we want to promote.” She also asked for advice to be sought from council officers on acceptable disability access stands.
Proposing the committee approve the plans, Colr. Patricia Logue expressed disappointment at the removal of the disabled stands. “We must find some way around it because we are an inclusive council and we must strive to do all we can to make council assets accessible to all.”