The leader of the Ulster Unionist grouping on Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon Borough Council has confirmed he will be objecting to a recommendation by planners to approve a housing development beside Gosford Castle.
Alderman Jim Speers said he has been “inundated” with calls from concerns locals after Armagh I revealed the development of modern properties in a former car park next to the 19th Century Castle.
There was a largely angry reaction to our report last night (Thursday), when we revealed planners were of the opinion the scheme – plans for which were submitted in May – was up for approval this Wednesday.
The application was to build 11 new homes – all of one-and-a-half storeys in height – and being a mix of accommodation types. The development would comprise of three detached houses, two semi-detached and six townhouses.
The proposals came forward in the name of Sam Marks, from Newtownabbey.
As we reported at the time, the plans would also see the provision of private amenity space for residents of the new homes, as well as parking provision.
The applicant is also 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”.
As we reported last night (Thursday), planners are poised to recommend that the housing development should be given the go-ahead, but it will be up to councillors to decide if they agree and if the scheme should or should not proceed as stands.
The recommendation to approve comes despite letters from neighbours and other interested parties and petitions too.
One of those petitions had been signed by close to 800 people.
Alderman Jim Speers, a veteran Ulster Unionist representative for the area and the longest-serving councillor on ABC Council, has nailed his colours to the mast and come out against the plans.
He said today (Friday): “I ave been inundated with local people, emailing, texting and phone calls regarding the proposal to build houses in Gosford Forest Park.
“I have met with residents who live at the historic site.
“I like them am totally opposed to developments of this nature in the car park of the Gosford Castle.
“This planning proposal rips the heart out of a unique historic site.
“I want to stress again I do not support this planning proposal.”
The decision is due to be taken on Wednesday and it remains to be seen how all councillors will respond to the recommendation on this application.