Belfast Telegraph

Plans for homes at historic Belfast church getting green light despite objections

By Victoria Leonard

A housing development around a historic former church in north Belfast is set to be backed by the city council's planning committee tonight despite objections from local MP Nigel Dodds and residents.

The scheme, situated on a prime site between Innisfayle Park and Waterloo Park off the Antrim Road, would see the development of 25 homes.

It would be comprised of three townhouses, six detached houses and 16 semi-detached dwellings around the Chapel of the Resurrection.

As part of the proposal, the listed former Church of Ireland building, which has lain derelict for years and been vandalised, would have its external fabric restored.

Among the work proposed is making the church "weather tight", as well as fencing to prevent unauthorised access.

It would also include the replacement of roof slate, stone and lead work, and the installation of period window frames.

Conditions attached to the recommendation to grant planning approval stipulate that the work to the church must be completed on or before the occupation of 15 of the new homes.

The developer has already amended the site layout, house types and materials to reflect the setting of the chapel to the satisfaction of the Department for Communities' Historic Environment Division.

However, the application makes no mention of renovations to the inside of the building, which was erected by the third Marquis of Donegall as a memorial to his son Frederick Richard, the Earl of Belfast.

Frederick died while travelling through Europe in 1853 at the age of 25, and the chapel was finished 16 years later in 1869.

Ownership was transferred to the Church of Ireland in 1938, and regular Sunday services were held until 1965.

However, it fell into disuse and became a target for vandals.

In 1982 bodies of members of the Donegall family, who had been laid to rest in the vault, were disturbed.

The chapel was subsequently deconsecrated before being bought by a private developer, who sold it on to another building firm.

It was finally bought by Alskea Developments last year.

The greenfield site is in an area of land that has been zoned within the draft Belfast Metropolitan Area Plan as land for housing.

In April Mr Dodds submitted a letter of objection to the scheme, saying that residents of Innisfayle Park had raised concerns over traffic congestion amid fears that a laneway could be used as an entrance to the new housing development. However, a report due to be presented to Belfast City Council's planning committee tonight confirms that there is "no proposal for a vehicular access" to the site via Innisfayle Park.

Instead, there will be a pedestrian access point into Innisfayle Park, the original access point to the church.

There will also be vehicular access from the Antrim Road, created by the demolition of a property on the site.

In total, seven objections were raised over the development, with other concerns including the impact on both the listed Chapel of the Resurrection and the character of the area; fears over a potential traffic hazard at the Antrim Road junction, and concerns over the impact on protected species, such as bats.

However, no objections were received from the Roads Service, the Northern Ireland Environment Agency, Transport NI, NI Water or Environmental Health.

Belfast Telegraph

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