Councillors not keen on Laurel Hill location

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A PROJECT to plant 1,200 trees as part of the Coleraine 400 celebrations was welcomed by Coleraine councillors last week, but not at the site recommended by Council Officers.

Steve McCartney, Council’s Outdoor Recreation Manager told members about the project which proposed to plant an area of woodland at Laurel Hill in Coleraine, land to the front of the former Army Barracks.

The location with met with a mixed reaction, with members eventually voting to allow officers time to investigate other sites for the woodland project.

The project, which would have no cost to Council, could see around 800 oak trees being planted alongside 400 smaller ‘nursing’ trees to provide a wooded area. SDLP Alderman Maura Hickey proposed that Council should back the recommendation by Mr McCartney and give the project the green light at the Laurel Hill site.

However, Chair of the Leisure and Environment Committee, councillor Mark Fielding, who also sits on the Coleraine 400 committee suggested a split in the tree planting, with trees being planted on both sides of the River Bann.

UUP councillor Norman Hillis was in favour of the project, but he did not favour the location, he said: “Once we plant these trees at this site we have lost it.

“We are told this land is land-locked, but who knows what will happen in the future.

UUP councillor David Harding asked if other sites had been looked at by Council officers, he said that he knew of private land owners who would “like to be part of this project.”

Responding to the councillor, Mr McCartney explained that the land had to be Council owned land, and that other sites had been looked at for the project.

Councillor Harding described the Laurel Hill site as a “compromise site” and added: “ I am totally in favour of the concept, it is just not the right site.”

Harding’s DUP colleague, councillor William McCandless, who described himself as a ‘Killowen man’ told the meeting that he too felt the site was wrong.

“The east bank of the River is Coleraine.

“I have no doubt that we need to leave a legacy for the celebrations, but this property has value, and the land will increase in value.

“We have missed the opportunity before, but it will come back.”

He proposed an amendment to councillor Hickey’s proposal to give Council officers time to investigate further.

DUP councillor Adrian McQuillan seconded the amendment saying: “ We need to be showing a united front.”

The vote was divided with nine voting for the amendment, and nine voting against.

Chairman, Mark Fielding had the deciding vote, and he cast his vote in favour of the amendment which will allow officers time to investigate other sites for the project.

Recommendations will be brought back to Council in due course.