Minister hears residents' fears over 100 house development
The campaign against a controversial 103 house development on a Bangor road went to the top last week with residents putting their objections to Environment Minister Mark Durkan at Stormont.
However, a spokesman for the Minister said no decision on the proposed development would be revealed before November 19.
Councillor Peter Weir MLA and Councillor Marion Smith joined Old Belfast Road Residents Association representatives Eleanor Adair and James Hunter as they highlighted their concerns over the proposed new development.
"There has been long standing and strong opposition to this proposal locally," said Mr Weir, explaining that the application to locate over 100 houses in a "previously undeveloped location" would threaten the local environment and create additional stress on the road system. "There has been cross party opposition to this application and widespread concern from local residents," he continued.
Mr Weir was delighted that the Environment Minister acceded to his request for a hearing following a site meeting with Planning Service and the NI Environment Agency. He said it was rare for the minister to meet with people opposed to a planning matter and that he had listened to their many concerns.
Councillor Marion Smith said: " While we all realise there will be housing on this site, 103 dwellings represents clear overdevelopment. The problem is in the view of many that the site is almost land locked, and the entrance is off the Old Belfast Road, a narrow road which is almost a country road. The most recent application is described as being in the ethos of the area, which seems strange to me when the nearest dwelling is a farm house, and the site is surrounded by a graveyard, a special school and a Sportplex. The long winding 'road' to the majority of houses only has a footpath on one side, and 103 houses are built this will not be easy access for cars or pedestrians. The residents accept that there will probably be houses on this site, but when the original application was made for 53 houses there was very little opposition, and I think that says a lot," she added.
Residents spokesperson Eleanor Adair added: "The Residents Association agrees with previous Council onjections that with the site landlocked, and limited access that it would be better that this was redisgnated as Open Space or for Civic/ Sporting use. The success of the recent World Police and Fire Games at the Sportsplex should be built upon to encourage reactional activity among residents, children and visitors.
"The surrounding fields and woodlands should remain undisturbed, with the watercourses in Killaire Wood of high conservation value, and we believe that this project if permitted could lead to potential damage during construction, with a high risk of flooding. The ecology of the site and the wood could be damaged irreversibly. The proposal runs contrary to the Department's own planning policy statements, and would cause conflict with the established wood, cemetery and surrounding established residential area," she added.
James Hunter concluded: "We informed the Minister of the very close proximity of the development to a wet woodland habitat, with birds, insects, and plant species including wild orchids, a habitat that is sadly becoming increasing rare.
"We believe that the initial 2008 survey which recommended further surveys on protected species in or near the site must be implemented before any fair decision can be taken."
A DOE spokesperson said: "The application remains under consideration by the Department at the present time. It is anticipated that the Department will be in a position to make a recommendation on the application to North Down Borough Council at their meeting due to be held on November 19."