Belfast Telegraph

Business Park owner threatens to pull plug over planning fallout with council

Ryan McAleer

By Ryan McAleer

A Belfast businessman has claimed that an ongoing investigation into alleged breaches of planning regulations at a small business park in Co Antrim is placing 35 jobs as risk.

Simon Hamill, who owns the Nutts Corner Enterprise Park, has said he is prepared to pull the plug on the business project over a major fallout with Antrim and Newtownabbey Borough Council.

Mr Hamill has operated an auction and commercial vehicle business at Nutts Corner for 25 years under The Auction Yard Ltd.

But it's understood that the site's expansion into offering units for small businesses has left him embroiled in an ongoing dispute with planning officials.

He said his site on the Moira Road currently houses 14 small businesses, including charities.

Mr Hamill claimed officials visited the location at 6am on January 2 to issue enforcement notices on all tenants.

Speaking yesterday, he described the action as "vexatious", adding that he is prepared to abandon what he described as an ongoing £2m investment at Nutts Corner "if planning issues are not resolved".

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In a statement, a spokesman for Antrim and Newtownabbey Borough Council said: "There is an ongoing enforcement investigation linked to a wide range of breaches of planning control associated with the operation of this site.

"As investigations are ongoing and subject to court action, the council considers it would be inappropriate to comment further at this time."

But Mr Hamill responded: "If Antrim and Newtownabbey planning does not see common sense and simply stop this vexatious action against me and the tenants in regard to the site, then I have no alternative to make good on what I say.

"The whole thing is very frustrating for me as a business owner. I am about to pull the plug on the whole lot, the tenants are all very nervous," he said. "The whole thing is a nonsense."

The statement issued by the Belfast businessman is not the first time he has gone public over a dispute with Antrim and Newtownabbey Borough Council.

In 2017, Mr Hamill clashed with the local authority over a legal notice to remove an ambulance due to be donated to a cancer charity from his property. The vehicle was destined for Northern Irish Cancer Care, which transports patients from their homes to hospitals and hospices.

It had been parked at his property for a number of months, bearing a sign encouraging donations to cover the £10,000 cost price.

Mr Hamill said planning officials ordered the charity ambulance be removed on the grounds that "retail is not permitted" on that section of the property.

His refusal to back down over the legal wrangle ended up in court.

Belfast Telegraph