Belfast Telegraph

Residents’ group hails win as golf course plans are shelved

by Chris McCann

An east Belfast residents’ group has claimed one of its “biggest ever victories” after plans to build over part of a local golf club were shelved.

On Monday the Department of the Environment (DoE) said houses will now not be built on Knock Golf Course, near Dundonald, prompting one MLA to proclaim: “power to the people”.

A controversial plan to build over green belt land had prompted one year of resistance from angry locals.

The application involved reducing the current golf course to nine holes and building 300 houses, including some social housing, and using the clubhouse as a community centre.

Part of the land belonged to the Ulster Hospital, which leased it to the club under a 100-year agreement.

David Munster from the Dundonald Green Belt Association said the group was “delighted” with Monday’s decision. “This is a victory as we have worked for a year now to try to persuade the Planning Department that the application was contrary to their own policies.

“We have won the battle, but we still feel the planning service must explain why they approved the application in the first place.

“Knock Golf Club forms part of the green wedge between Belfast and Dundonald, it is designed to prevent urban sprawl. If this development had gone ahead, it would have set a precedent for for developers looking to build on it.”

Alliance councillor Judith Cochrane said: “This is good news for people living in the area. This was a very controversial plan and I am glad the plans have been cancelled.

“I don't see how anyone could agree with important green spaces being built over. We need to keep an environmental balance in the area and I am pleased that people power has won the battle. This withdrawal just goes to show you that if you shout loud enough in a constructive way you can deliver the right result.”

The Dundonald Green Belt Association had previously referred the Knock planning application to the Ombudsman. Their complaint alleged 59 failures in the processing of the controversial application.

East Belfast independent MLA Dawn Purvis added: “People power has won out. The dynamic part of the process leading to the withdrawal of this planning application has been the Dundonald Green Belt Association and the scrutiny of the Environment Committee.

“Concerns were raised at the very beginning regarding the effects on the environment, the use of hospital grounds and the alleged community benefits. It was the Dundonald Green Belt Association who continually highlighted the inaccuracies.”

A DoE spokesman said: “A letter dated January 13, 2011 has been received withdrawing this application. As a result, all those who have been in correspondence with the Planning Office will now be informed.”

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