Plans for major new shopping units in the Abbey Centre area have been approved.
The plans, for eight new retail units and two restaurants on the Old Church Road and at Abbey Retails Park on the former site of Budget DIY, were approved at last week’s Planning and Consultation Committee meeting.
Councillors Billy Webb and Thomas Hogg attempted and failed to get the decision deferred because of a lengthy letter from two sisters who live in the only house in the area.
Councillor Webb said: “They have raised significant issues in relation to this development which would leave them further isolated and surrounded by a car park. I would recommend that we defer this application in an effort to fully consider and address their concerns.”
Councillor Thomas Hogg added: “I have not had the time to read this lengthy letter, but I must agree with my learned member that we defer this to consider the issues raised. We have a duty of care to our ratepayers and owe it to them to consider the issues raised fully.”
Councillor Tom Campbell responded: “I have had the time to read the letter and to give you an executive summary there is equality and discrimination issues raised as well as quite distressing allegations against the chief executive which have nothing to do with planning. I would recommend that in future they [the authors] should be careful about making allegations.
“They would seem to think there is some conspiracy against them which is just not right. We have all looked at these issues and considered them. Members are doing their best for constituents and that has to be admired and recognised, but there is no reason to defer this development.”
Alderman John Blair said: “This area is actually the place of my birth, although it has changed considerably since then. While it is sad to see all the development and the changes the fact is that happens and we can not allow this development, which is already in a heavy commercialised area to be delayed.”
John Davison, Newtownabbey planning officer said the letter was the 43rd piece of correspondence received on the matter in the past 14 months. He said the correspondence was “very similar, if not the same” to other objections lodged which had been “replicated 20 or 30 times”.
He added: “Given nature of this application there is no planning ground to refuse this application.
“Indeed there is already a live application in place, this is just a variation of that plan given work to accommodate a culvert, so even if this was refused, the developer can go ahead on that previous application.
“Also, people have said that this will leave those residents isolated and surrounded by a car park. But the truth is that they are already isolated and surrounded by a car park and derelict land.”
The application was approved.