Social housing increased for former Newtownabbey school site

Updated plans for a new housing development on the former Newtownabbey Community High School site in Rathcoole include a higher number of social homes than previously stated.

Friday, 6th November 2020, 12:40 pm
Updated Friday, 6th November 2020, 2:31 pm
Newtownabbey Community High School site. Pic by Google.

Apex Housing Association had originally submitted a proposal of application notice (PAN) to Antrim and Newtownabbey Borough Council for the redevelopment of the former post-primary site.

The envisaged housing mix was 80 per cent new social homes with a further 20 per cent proposed as affordable homes for sale. For more on this story, read here

After the plans were first released, concerns were voiced by elected representatives about a lack of social housing in the estate. Revamped proposals have reduced the number of affordable homes for sale “from 20 per cent to around nine per cent”.

Providing an update to this newspaper, a spokesperson for Belfast-based agents, Turley, said: “The delay was to allow updated drawings to be prepared by the project architect following a decision made by the Housing Executive to reduce the number of affordable homes for sale from 20 per cent to around nine per cent as a result of a request from Apex with the support of local councillors to NIHE.

“Final numbers will not be confirmed until this pre-application consultation is concluded, and an application has not yet be submitted. However, currently circa 110 homes are planned for the site.”

The project will still include residential development, public open space, children’s play park, landscaping and car parking with access from Rathcoole Drive.

Welcoming the move, Macedon UUP representative, Cllr Robert Foster said: “I am pleased to see that the NIHE and the developer have taken on board the concerns raised in regard to the percentage of private houses in the original proposal and have now not only reduced these but ‘pepper potted’ them throughout the development.

“The increase in social housing in this development is particularly welcome given the immense need within in the greater Rathcoole area.

“This change was as a result of positive cross party lobbying and is to be welcomed.”

The move has also been welcomed by Rathcoole-based community support group, Listening Ear.

Listening Ear Chairman, Brian Kerr, said: “Over the last year Listening Ear has witnessed a significant increase in the number of clients contacting us seeking support and assistance in their attempts to address their needs for suitable social housing within the Rathcoole area.

“The Newtownabbey High School site has provided a once in a generation opportunity to meet the current needs of the community with social housing.

“The current waiting list for a one-bedroom need is over 500 and for two-bedroom need is over 850. The retention and upgrade of the multis and additional social housing is a must for the area.

“With the new housing there is a requirement to place the associated infrastructure in place and we look forward to the statutory bodies engaging with the community to meet these needs.”

The consultation website was scheduled to go live on September 3 with the closing date for responses due to be September 25. However, the pre-application community consultation was delayed.

The consultation website (www.rathcooledevelopment.co.uk) will now go live on November 25 and the webinars (online presentations) are proposed to take place on December 2, 10am-11am and 6pm-7pm.

A set of banner displays will be availabe for public viewing in the Dunanney Centre.

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