Development referred to Planning Board

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A proposed housing development at Strandview Drive in Portstewart is to be referred to the Planning Management Board.

At last Tuesday night’s Planning Committee meeting, the application for 44 dwellings with associated car parking and open spaces, was listed on the agenda as an approval.

The application first appeared on the Council schedule as an approval back in June 2013.

An office meeting was held in July last year to allow the objectors a chance to voice their concerns. Concerns listed include density, traffic, security and land ownership issues.

Environment Minister Mark Durkan viewed the application and visited the site to meet with objectors.

Following the meeting with the Minister the applicant reduced the application from 47 homes to 44, and at Tuesday night’s meeting the application appeared on the schedule again as an approval.

A number of objectors were in the public gallery during the meeting. One of the objectors was to address the meeting, however they withdrew their presentation.

Speaking about the application, DUP councillor Mark Fielding proposed that the application be looked at by the Management Board. He asked Michael Wilson, from the local planning office to outline what the review criteria was. Mr Wilson told the meeting that there were a number of factors - that it must be a significant development and that there must be strong local objections to the proposal.

Responding, councillor Fielding said: “This is a large scale development and there are 63 objectors to it. There are already empty apartments in Portstewart we certainly don’t need any more. This application would certainly meet the criteria for a Management Board review. “

His proposal was seconded by Alliance councillor Barney Fitzpatrick who suggested that Council’s Planning consultant should also take a look at the application. The Alliance councillor said: “We have done everything possible.”

Independent councillor Christine Alexander supported what had been said previously, and added: ”If we approve this it would be ridiculous.”

She went on: “We are coming to the end of a lengthy process to adopt an area plan for the area.

“To prematurely approve this application would make a mockery of the planning system, the Planning Appeals Commission and the draft Northern Area Plan.”

SDLP councillor Maura Hickey told the meeting that she thought that SDLP Environment Minister Mark Durkan ‘could have been more robust’.

She said: “A development like this will ruin the character of the area.”

On being put to a vote, councillor Fielding’s proposal, which incorporated councillor Fitzpatrick’s suggestion to allow Council’s Planning Consultant to view the application was carried.