600 homes plan blocked at Ulster University

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Politicians have welcomed the outcome of a planning appeal in relation to an application to build more than 600 new homes in Jordanstown.

A decision taken by Antrim and Newtownabbey Borough Council’s Planning Committee to block the project at Ulster University’s Shore Road campus has been upheld by the Planning Appeals Commission (PAC).

An application by the university for the redevelopment of the campus for a mixed use scheme including 600 dwellings, village centre, relocated pitches, a research and development park and the retention of some existing facilities was turned down by the council’s Planning Committee in August 2015.

Following a pre-determination hearing on July 2, 2015, the application was presented to the Planning Committee the following month with a recommendation to refuse based on seven grounds.

The committee agreed to refuse the application and a decision to refuse was issued on August 19, 2015.

Following the refusal, the applicant lodged an appeal with the Planning Appeals Commission.

The university submitted the application to begin work on the project following the planned move to its new state-of-the-art campus in Belfast.

Local residents and representatives on both sides of the issue awaited the outcome of the appeal, which took place in Belfast on April 5 this year.

East Antrim MLA Stewart Dickson is pleased the decision has been upheld by the Planning Appeals Commission.

The Alliance representative said: “I am delighted for the residents I am representing to hear that the PAC has made the right decision, 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.

“It is now time for the university to go ‘back to the drawing board’ and consult with the local community to produce a sustainable, positive and well-designed housing development of a much lower density than their current plans, leaving a positive legacy in the area. I look forward to engaging with the university to help plan a future that will benefit both their campus and the Jordanstown community.”

These sentiments were echoed by Mr Dickson’s party colleague, Cllr John Blair, who said: “Many people living in the local community, as well as those who represent the area, will be greatly relieved at the decision to uphold the Planning Committee’s original refusal.

“This is an example of how public opinion and reaction truly makes a difference. There were concerns within the local community about over development of the site. I hope that these concerns are addressed in any forthcoming plans. There has been huge opposition to the nature and size of the development.”

Commenting on the decision, a spokesperson for the council said: “The Council welcomes the recent decision of the Planning Appeals Commission to dismiss the appeal lodged by the Ulster University against the decision taken by the council’s Planning Committee in August 2015 to refuse planning permission for the redevelopment of the Jordanstown campus with a mixed-use scheme including 600 dwellings.

“The council has previously indicated that it is not opposed in principle to the redevelopment taking place within the site, but was not persuaded that the 600 houses proposed and other related elements of the redevelopment would respect the existing landscape and open space setting of the campus. The decision of the PAC has vindicated this position.”

The spokesperson added: “Clearly the university will now wish to consider how it will proceed in light of the PAC decision. If a new planning application is to be submitted the council for its part would wish to see comprehensive engagement with the local community and its representatives leading to a well thought out development scheme that respects the site and its setting - one that will bring benefits to the whole community.”

An Ulster University spokesperson said: “The University is obviously disappointed with the PAC’s decision to dismiss the appeal for the Jordanstown masterplan which we still believe is a quality and viable development project.

“We are currently reviewing the report in detail in order to consider our options and next steps, and are encouraged by the dismissal of many of the refusal reasons and some of the positive comments made by the PAC.”