Belfast Telegraph

Church's £3m apartments plan in south Belfast set to get go-ahead

By John Mulgrew

A church looks set to get the green light for a controversial £3m plan to build 22 apartments in an affluent area of south Belfast.

Windsor Baptist Church has submitted revised proposals for the development at Malone Avenue after a backlash from residents.

The church wants permission to knock down its existing building and construct 22 apartments and associated car parking on the site.

The building was put forward for approval by Belfast City Council planners last month, despite more than 100 fresh objections. But a decision was subsequently deferred until councillors carried out a site visit before deciding on whether to grant approval.

However, after the visit, planners are recommending the building gets the go-ahead.

The committee is due to make a decision on the scheme at next Tuesday's planning meeting.

Since last month's meeting, two further letters of objection have been received.

Planners say they relate to issues such as infrastructure not being in place for the size of buildings, parking, waste and noise, and the development not being in keeping with the townscape character of the area.

"Following presentation of the application, the committee agreed to defer consideration of the application to permit a site visit to be undertaken in light of the issues raised regarding the Malone Conservation Area, height of the proposal and impact on local residents and to allow the committee to acquaint itself with the location and the proposal at first hand," council planners said.

Addressing issues over the size and scale of the building, planners said: "It is acknowledged in the immediate context of the application site, there are lower density semi-detached properties.

"However, this is not the dominant density along Malone Avenue which also consists of HMO (house in multiple occupation) properties and flats contained within the terraces and the larger flatted developments at the Lisburn Road end.

"Therefore, the proposed density would not be out of keeping with the context of Malone Avenue.

"In addition, due to the design of the development which would appear as individual terraced properties, the actual numbers of units would not be visually apparent."

Addressing the planning committee last month, James Stinson, representing the Lower Malone residents, said he was "extremely concerned" about the recommendation to approve the scheme, and said the group had highlighted "significant and evidence-based" reasons why the three-storey development should not get the go-ahead.

Tom Stokes of TSA Planning, which is acting on behalf of the church, said Windsor Baptist Church is planning to move to a new site on the Lisburn Road as it is growing in "size and congregation".

While planners have recommended the apartment building gets permission, there are a series of conditions.

They include developers showing what materials will be used in its construction and demonstrating that there will be satisfactory bin storage and collection.

Windsor Baptist Church is currently transforming the former Majestic cinema on the Lisburn Road, which it will use as its new meeting hall. It is one of the last remaining venues of its kind in the city, but has been empty for several years.

Belfast Telegraph

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