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Controversial housing plans next to Gosford Castle to go-ahead after developer wins appeal

Gosford Castle with the adjoining car park in the foreground. Photo: Zygimantas Stonkus

A controversial housing development at Gosford is to go-ahead after the developer won his appeal.

ABC Council has previously denied Sam Marks permission to build next to the historic Gosford Castle.

But the Planning Appeals Commission has overturned that decision.

It was in January 2022 that the council’s planning committee decided to go against a recommendation made by planning officers and reject the application.

Armagh I first revealed plans for the development back in May 2021.

The plans were for 11 properties, lying in the shadow of the 19th Century castle and sandwiched between it and the famous walled garden.

The earmarked site is on a former car park.

The 11 new homes – all of one-and-a-half storeys – would be a mix of accommodation types. The development would comprise of three detached houses, two semi-detached and six townhouses.

The application – in the name of Sam Marks, from Newtownabbey – was submitted to Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon Borough Council and created a wave of opposition in the area.

The proposals, as outlined, would also see the provision of private amenity space for residents of the new homes, as well as parking provision.

But most notably, the applicant had been intending to carry out a landscape scheme which would include a maintenance plan for the walled garden, which has a pond at its centre.

The earmarked site is described in the submission as being on “lands adjacent and to the west of Gosford Castle, Markethill”. It is described as “hardstanding ground” which was “formerly a public car park”.

The proposals had been turned down by ABC Council who agreed with the objections raised.

Plans for housing next to Gosford Castle

The committee did so as it was of the view there are no overriding reasons why this development is essential in a rural location and could not be located within a settlement and a belief the development would lead to a loss of, or cause harm to, the character, principal components and setting of Gosford Forest Park and Castle grounds.

The Planning Appeals Commission has, however, now ruled in the favour of the applicant.

Commissioner Laura Roddy wrote: “The appeal site, while originally an orchard, was most recently used as a public car park by Forest Service which would involve the coming and going of a number of cars and people.

“The castle itself was designed as a residence and is currently in residential use, with planning approval for 23 apartments and garages.

“Accordingly, the proposed residential use of the site is not incompatible with the character of the listed building.

“Whilst some concerns have been raised about the impact of the proposed residential use for eleven dwellings, I am not persuaded that this use would have an adverse effect on the setting of the castle of the site. Whilst activity would increase on the site, and in the vicinity of the listed building, the level of activity associated with eleven dwellings would not create undue noise or disturbance given there is already activity in and around the castle from both its residents coming and going, and also users of the forest park.”

And the Commissioner, in a detailed 20-page submission, adds: “Overall, I find the appeal proposal would be of a sympathetic scale of development and would respect the character of the setting of the listed castle and walled garden.

“Further, it would restore the listed walled garden, reinstate the historic pathway between the castle and walled garden and include a significant level of landscaping which would be sympathetic to its setting.”

Commissioner Roddy concludes: “I consider that there exists a realistic fallback position that could be implemented.

“The appeal proposal provides an opportunity to provide betterment to what has already been approved particularly in terms of the impact on the heritage assets resulting from the reduction in the scale and height of development, the improved layout, the proposed landscaping, the restoration of the walled garden, the reinstatement of the historic link from the castle to the walled garden.

“These all weigh in favour of the appeal proposal and significant weight should be given to the betterment of the appeal proposal in comparison to the lawful fallback position.”

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