Criticism as Belfast retail site is given the go-ahead
Belfast councillors have hit out after a City Hall vote in favour of a retail-only development at the Hillview site in north Belfast.
Sinn Fein, the SDLP and People Before Profit slammed the planning committee decision, which they said flew in the face of the clear need for social housing on the Crumlin Road site.
Sinn Fein MLA Caral Ni Chuilin described it as a "disastrous decision".
"We don't need car show rooms and fast food outlets at Hillview, we need accessible amenities, community facilities and decent social housing for citizens in north Belfast," she said.
SDLP councillor Paul McCusker said: "This is a dereliction of duty that we will continue to oppose."
Meanwhile, permission has been granted for the £25m transformation of Andersonstown Leisure Centre. The existing centre in west Belfast will be demolished and replaced with a new multi-purpose leisure facility.
News of the new facility was welcomed by North Belfast DUP MLA William Humphrey, who said that it would provide a jobs boost to the local economy.
"I warmly welcome this commitment to invest at Hillview Retail Park and the City Council's Committee has approved planning permission," he said.
"This has the potential to create up to 300 jobs providing a much-needed boost to local employment and to the retail offering in North Belfast. These are exciting plans which will breathe new life and new vitality into this retail park which is accessible to all parts of the community."
Commenting on the passing of the application at the City Council’s Planning Committee, by a vote of 7-6, Mr Humphrey added:
"It is deeply disappointing, but came as no surprise, that Sinn Fein, the SDLP and Alliance Councillors combined to oppose this planning application.
"All too often the mantra from Sinn Fein is that the only development they will support is housing development, and all too often the SDLP and Alliance parties fall into line with that blinkered policy.
"We will continue to work with the developer to support this investment and the attraction of employers to this significant retail park."