The Planning Appeals Commission has ruled in favour of Martins Discount Stores’ proposals for the site in the Dobbin Street/Linenhall Street area.
The applicant had lodged plans some years previous for the site, which is described as being between 13 Dobbin Street and the Abbey Lane car park, fronting on to Linenhall Street.
The property in question is a two-storey building, with ground floor store and vacant first floor.
Martins Discount Stores had sought approval to demolish the building. The plan was to replace it with a two-storey building with ground floor store and first floor apartment.
The red-brick building – with a roller-shutter entrance – needed to come down according to the professionals.
A planning statement accompanying papers at the time of submission said the building appeared to be the last of a row that had previously been demolished.
It added: “The existing building is in a bad state of repair and the front elevation is starting to bulge in the middle making it a danger to the public.”
Despite this planners, refused permission for the demolition and rebuilding.
In their consideration, they found that the building “makes a contribution to the character and appearance of the Armagh Conservation Area” and no information had been submitted to “demonstrate an exceptional reason which, in the judgement of the Planning Authority, justifies its demolition”.
The applicant subsequently appealed the council’s decision.
And Planning Appeals NI has now overturned the council’s ruling and permitted the development to proceed.
Commissioner Laura Roddy, in her summing up, wrote: “The council did not provide any clarification or explanation as to why they consider the existing building makes a material contribution to the character or appearance of the Conservation Area.”
Referencing planning policy quoted by council, Commissioner Roddy found that the “council did not assess the merits of the existing building, or appeal proposal in line with the overall parameters of the policy. For example, they did not tell me which particular physical features of the building contributed to the local scene.”
And she continues: “While its domestic scale and proportions are still apparent overall, the building is now isolated, and its previous context is lost.
“In its current form, the building is unremarkable in its surrounding context compared with other traditional terraces, particularly along Dobbin Street, which remain characteristic of this part of the Armagh Conservation Area.
“In the evidential context provided I find that the building does not make a positive or material contribution to the character or appearance of the area.
“Overall, I consider the building has a neutral impact on the character and appearance of the Armagh Conservation Area and in the absence of any argument to support its claim that the building makes a positive contribution, cannot sustain the council’s first reason for refusal…”.
The council had also cited parking concerns in refusing the application.
But the Commissioner said she was “satisfied there would be adequate and appropriate parking provision available” and therefore the “council’s second reason for refusal is not sustained”.
Commissioner Roddy ruled that the proposed redevelopment scheme is “acceptable, subject to conditions”, and added that the “council’s objections to the demolition of the existing building are not sustained”.
The two conditions imposed in granting approval are that work starts within five years, and that a window on the southern elevation should be fitted with obscured glazing, to avoid “unacceptable overlooking” of a neighbouring building “which appears to be in residential use”.