A controversial housing development and bridge in Newry has been given the go-ahead – after a decision by council to refuse permission was overturned on appeal.
The development – to consist of 14 social housing units and a 24-ft wide bridge linking two residential areas – had been turned down last year by Newry, Mourne and Down District Council.
The applicant – Helm Housing – in a design and access statement submitted last year, said the proposal would “help to address an urgent need for social housing in this area”.
The site in question is at Lindsay Hill and St Clare’s Avenue in Newry.
Numerous complaints and objections to the proposals were lodged and NMD Council took the decision to refuse permission.
One of the key concerns was that the construction of the bridge would be a magnet for anti-social behaviour.
But that decision was overturned on Wednesday, almost three months after a full hearing by the Planning Appeals Commission.
The commissioner – in his considerations – ruled: “I have not been convinced that the bridge would create a ‘tunnel’ similar to subways in the city centre where people congregate and anti-social behaviour is an issue.
“Rather, the development is designed to deter crime and promote personal safety.
“The erection of new family dwellings on the appeal site would introduce natural surveillance to an area that is currently isoalted and preclude anti-social behaviour on the site.”
Two local councillors – Liz Kimmins of Sinn Fein and the SDLP’s Gary Stokes – were present for the appeal hearing in March.
The judgement today (Wednesday), the the decision taken to reverse council direction.
Speaking afterwards, councillor Kimmins – who said she had attended the original hearing in support of residents – hit out and said she was “extremely disappointed” that full planning permission has now been granted.
She added: “The application was refused by council in July 2017 by the planning committee following strong objections from the community who are concerned that the bridge would not only decimate the heritage and history associated with Lindsay Hill, but will have a negative impact on the quality of life of the residents of St Clare’s Avenue.
“Lindsay Hill was established in the 19th Century and is one of the few sites in Newry which has been preserved, and the local community have strongly emphasised the need to protect this.
“I have consistently been lobbying on behalf of the community to highlight concerns regarding the erection of this bridge as it was widely felt that it would also exacerbate anti-social behaviour in the area, providing a sheltered area which would encourage anti-social elements similar to those in the nearby underpass at Abbey Way.
“It is deeply disappointing that the wishes of the residents – many of whom have lived here their whole lives – have been disregarded, without any attempts to find a compromise.”
Councillor Kimmins paid tribute to the efforts, however, of local residents.
“I want to acknowledge the strong community campaign to uphold the council’s decision to refuse this application and to commend in particular a number of local residents who have worked extremely hard to protect Lindsay Hill and to protect this community’s interests,” she said.
“I will continue to work with all to ensure that these concerns are to the fore.”