Belfast Telegraph

Friday 19 December 2014

Campaigners win battle to save 900 trees from the axe

More than 900 trees in Belfast's Shore Road area have won protection from development after a tree preservation order was made permanent.

The mass order takes in 900 trees across 13-hectares, covering Loughside Park and Loughside Playing Fields, both of which were until recently zoned for development in a deal that would have netted Belfast City Council £14m.

Hundreds of residents objected to plans that would have wiped out one of the last remaining areas of green space in the area.

Late last year Environment Minister Alex Attwood refused planning permission for a retail development at Loughside Recreation Centre. The sporting facilities there were to have been moved to the nearby Loughside Park, a popular spot with families and dog walkers.

The Belfast City Council deal with Bayshore Developments was cast into doubt when anchor tenant Asda pulled out in October, citing the economic downturn and saying it intended to concentrate on its existing Shore Road store. It said delays in the planning process had not helped.

Planners had received 1,737 objections and one petition of objection with 236 signatures. They received a petition of support from Asda with 1,131 signatures and two other petitions with 552 signatures.

Despite the refusal of planning permission for the retail development, residents were concerned that Loughside Park could still be in line for development and six of them lodged applications for a tree preservation order to be put in place.

A temporary TPO was put in place to allow planners to survey the area and examine any objections raised, and around 900 of the 1,000 trees surveyed have now won permanent protection.

The Concerned Residents of Loughside group said it was thrilled the order has been made permanent following the three-year battle to stop half-a-mile of public open green space and hundreds of of mature trees from being destroyed by developers.

"These trees are an important feature of the landscape and Loughside Park will now remain a haven for both people and wildlife," a spokesman said.

BACKGROUND

A controversial £14m plan would have seen Belfast City Council sell Loughside Recreation Centre and neighbouring playing fields to Bayshore Developments to build a retail complex. If planning permission had been granted, Belfast City Council would have built a 3G all-weather pitch, sports pavilion and children's play facilities in Loughside Park.

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