A controversial plan for a new luxury housing estate beside Belvoir Park has been approved by Belfast City Council despite receiving 271 objections from locals.
The application for 18 top grade detached houses on green space beside Hampton Park, Galwally was approved by all elected members at this week’s special meeting of the council’s Planning Committee.
It was deferred from January for assurances from the applicant, D and J Enterprises, that the development would not negatively affect connectivity around one of Belfast’s most popular areas of outstanding natural beauty at Lagan Meadows. A planned development for 35 dwellings on a large portion of the site previously received permission but was not pursued.
Since the last meeting the developer has agreed with the council to create a public pathway and facilitate access to Lagan Lands East through the application site. Access will be provided for pedestrians and cyclists from Hampton Park to council land in accordance with the council’s Lagan Gateway project.
The council planning report states: “The provision of access will be subject to permitted closures for the purposes of public safety, maintenance, to assert rights of proprietorship or other necessary closures provided that the closure is agreed in advance by the council. Any closures are to be kept to a minimum. The access can be permanently closed if a public path is provided.”
The report adds: “The owner will organise a quarterly meeting with local residents and councillors to review the management arrangements for the construction and maintenance of the development in such a way so that it is not seriously detrimental to the amenities of the neighbourhood.”
By the time of the last hearing of the application, the plan had received 271 objections from locals, as well as opposition from Councillors Donal Lyons and Brian Smyth, and Paula Bradshaw MLA.
Objectors said the development would block potential pathways along the southern bank of the River Lagan, would reduce access to the River Lagan, and detrimentally affect biodiversity and plans to develop the waterways. They raised a perceived lack of notification to residents, and said the proposed development would ruin views from the towpath, and negatively affect parking in Hampton Park.
Questions were raised regarding the proportion of affordable housing within the proposed development. Critics, the Council report added, also said the developer had already installed street lights without permission.
Since the offer of a public pathway, the council has received further complaints that the proposed pathway does not have planned access for wheelchair users and prams, that the criteria for permitted closures would be too broad, and that closure of the pathway could be for long periods. Residents say that proposed quarterly meetings with the developer should be monthly.
The City Solicitor told the Planning Committee that the developer would have to agree with the council for any closure of the pathway lasting over 72 hours.
Sinn Féin Councillor Geraldine McAteer said the clarifications from the City Solicitor had “provided comfort” to her concerns about the agreement. She said: “The clause around the permitted closures was of concern, and in particular around the proprietorship element.
“The fact there is now a time bound 72 hours on that is of considerable comfort. I just want to double-down that the agreement will provide a permanent and secure pathway, unfettered as far as possible. I think this tightens the application up a lot.
“I am happy to see that a two metre path will be there, and that wheelchair access will be permissible, as well as prams.”