More than 1,000 trees in Belfast’s Shore Road area have been protected after planners imposed a Tree Preservation Order (TPO).
The six-month order takes in a 13-hectare area covering Loughside Park and nearby Loughside Playing Fields, both of which were, until recently, earmarked for a development that would have netted Belfast City Council £14m.
Last month Environment Minister Alex Attwood refused planning permission for a controversial retail development at Loughside Recreation Centre.
Sporting facilities were to be moved to Loughside Park, wiping out one of the last green spaces on the Shore Road in an ongoing controversy that has been highlighted by the Belfast Telegraph.
The Belfast City Council deal with Bayshore Developments was cast into doubt when anchor tenant Asda pulled out in October.
Last week, notices were put up on trees throughout the council properties noting that both areas were the subject of a Tree Preservation Order. This will remain in place for six months, allowing planners to survey the trees.
On Monday night a spokesman for Loughside Concerned Residents said: “We welcome wholeheartedly the placing of a TPO on the area of Loughside Park. It is incredible that local people have to go to such lengths to protect hundreds of mature trees from destruction by their own council.”
Green Party leader Steven Agnew, who has championed the park, said: “I am delighted that a temporary tree preservation order has been given for Loughside Park and the adjacent playing fields.”
A DOE spokesman confirmed the TPO, adding: “During this six-month period, the department has the opportunity to carry out a health and condition survey of the trees. The department has notified residents. The department will take into account all representations received and the health and condition survey when making a decision regarding confirmation of the Order.”
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The £14m plan would have seen Belfast City Council sell Loughside Recreation Centre and adjacent playing fields to Bayshore Developments to build a retail complex. If planning permission was granted, Belfast City Council would have built a 3G all-weather pitch, sports pavilion and children's play facilities on Loughside Park.
More than 1,700 objections were received.