University ‘reviewing options’ after councillors refuse housing plan

Ulster University's Jordanstown campus. (archive pic)
Ulster University's Jordanstown campus. (archive pic)
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Ulster University says it is “reviewing its options” after council planners turned down an application for a major private housing development at its Jordanstown campus.

At their monthly meeting on Monday night (August 17), members of Antrim and Newtownabbey Borough Council’s Planning Committee agreed with a planning department refusal recommendation for the multi-million pound scheme.

The university had submitted plans to build 600 new homes, shops and car parking on part of its current Jordanstown campus, following the planned move to a new state-of-the-art campus in Belfast.

The redevelopment masterplan also proposed the retention of sports facilities, student accommodation and the FireSERT research centre at the Shore Road site.

At Monday night’s meeting, planning officer Barry Diamond gave a summary of the university’s application and detailed the planners’ reasons for recommending refusal.

With no-one from the university or its agents having requested to address the committee, members voted in favour of the recommendation to refuse the application.

“In refusing the planning application the council considered that a quality housing layout had not been demonstrated, with the proposed development of 600 houses failing to respect the context of the site, and its specific features and constraints,” a council statement said.

“It was considered that the development as proposed would have a negative impact on the parkland setting at the university site, would reduce the level of planned open space and result in the loss of a significant number of protected trees at the site. It was determined that all of these factors would adversely affect the character, amenity value and biodiversity of the site.”

East Antrim MLA Stewart Dickson and local Councillor Tom Campbell both welcomed the refusal decision.

“I am delighted the Planning Committee has made the right decision here, and avoided irreparable damage to the Jordanstown area for years to come. This development would have overwhelmed the local community, with a massive influx of new residents putting extreme pressure on local infrastructure and services. This is a victory for common sense and the people of Jordanstown, and furthermore demonstrates how local planning responsibility can be effectively managed at council level,” Mr Dickson said.

Alderman Campbell and Mr Dickson both urged the university to “go back to the drawing board” and rethink its proposals for the site.

Also welcoming the refusal decision, East Antrim MP Sammy Wilson added: “I, and my council colleagues Pamela Barr, Stevie Ross and Billy Ball, have over the last two years raised concerns which local people have about the density of the housing, the traffic implications, the pressure on local services and the long term management of the site.

“Either these proposals will need to be radically reassessed or the university will continue to face local opposition.

“UUJ need to be more realistic about what is feasible for this site and their plans must be based not on the amount of money they need to raise, but on what works in the local context.”

Asked if it will appeal the committee’s decision, a spokesperson for Ulster University said: “The university is extremely disappointed at the refusal of its outline planning application by Antrim and Newtownabbey Borough Council, especially given the many months of constructive engagement with the planners that preceded this application.

“The university will now review its options on the most appropriate way forward for the development.”