MERVILLE residents have vowed to fight any possible moves by Newtownabbey Borough Council to sell off a narrow strip of land at Shore Road for commercial development.
The council-owned site opposite Merville Garden Village has been declared “surplus to requirements” by the council, and one option currently being considered by the local authority is selling the land to facilitate the proposed development of a seven screen cinema.
A letter sent to the council by David Milliken, Chairman of Merville Residents’ Association, outlines local people’s objections to the site being sold off for commercial use.
Mr Milliken points out that Merville Garden Village is the only designated conservation area in Newtownabbey and claims that the proposed cinema development would have a serious negative impact on residential amenity, including the loss of recreational space and increased traffic in the area.
“The initial sale of lands to accommodate the traffic movement needs resulting from the last extension to the Abbeycentre approximately 10 years ago cannot be used as justification for the further erosion of this critical green space in an already overdeveloped area,” Mr Milliken said.
The Residents’ Association has received support from a number of local councillors, who have already voiced their opposition to the possible sale of the land for commercial development.
DUP councillor Thomas Hogg commented: “Any development on this land would have a detrimental impact on the surrounding area, with the loss of mature trees and a valuable open space. Residents believe strongly that the established character of the area must be maintained and we ought to give weight to their views when considering this matter. I will oppose any sale or development of this land at every stage.”
Alliance councillor Billy Webb added: “This is the only visible green space, after the Loughshore Park, along the main route to Belfast and is used for passive recreation by residents from Merville Garden Village and the Shore Road area. I have received many phone calls, letters and emails supporting my action in objecting to the sale of a portion of this land. There is also great concern about the council possibly facilitating the building of a cinema by selling this land, and I can assure local residents that I will continue to oppose this when and where I can.”
Newtownabbey Borough Council has stressed that no decision has yet been taken about whether or not it will sell the 3.2 acre site.
It’s expected that the issue will be discussed again when the Policy and Governance Committee meets on October 22.