Councillors have deferred a decision on a major city centre mixed-use development in Newry.
At a meeting of the planning committee on Wednesday members took part in a pre-determination hearing over the proposals on Merchant’s Quay and Cornmarket in the area.
The plans were previously approved by the Newry Mourne and Down District Council (NMDDC) in March 2021 but were brought back on Wednesday after a number of planning concerns had been raised by statutory consultees.
Concerns were raised about the lack of parking spaces at the development, which is situated next to the bus station in the city.
Under the proposals, 73 residential apartments will be built but residents would only have access to 11 car parking spaces in an effort to reduce the amount of traffic in the area.
However, the council planners and the Department of Infrastructure pushed back against the suggestion arguing that there would need to be over 100 car spaces at the development.
Representatives speaking on behalf of the applicant, Kerr Property Holdings Ltd, said: “You only need to carry out a transport assessment when a development exceeds 100 units and in this case, we don’t.
“Instead of the transport assessment, we submitted a transport assessment form and we also put in a travel plan and a travel pack for each resident to show how the alternative transport modes could be provided.
“The bus station and the connection to the railway line are across the road and we identified that there was capacity for car parking in the immediate area.”
The applicants also said that residents would be offered the opportunity to subscribe to a ‘car club’ service which would provide a self-service rental vehicle when requested at a low rate.
However, NMDDC planning officer Pat Rooney said that the level of parking that was “insufficient” for the development and called on the developer to ‘bridge the gap’ to move the proposals forward.
Mr Rooney added: “We feel that those measures that were referred by the applicant could be taken into account and more weight could be attached to them if they were submitted in support of bridging a gap between what is being proposed and what the requirement is.
“We feel that the gap is reasonable considering when 11 spaces are being suggested and the requirement is over 200 spaces. The gap is too wide and therefore weight cannot be afforded to those measures.”
The development, if approved, will also see an office space, three retail units and a coffee bar on the site now occupied mostly by the vacant Goss’s car showroom.
Meanwhile, after considering the concerns by the planning officers and DfI, the applicant offered to increase the number of parking spaces at the site to 62 spaces.
In response, planners said that the development would need at least 109 car spaces for the application was to move forward with a recommendation for approval.
At this point Ulster Unionist councillor, Harold McKee proposed that the application should be deferred and his proposal was seconded by SDLP councillor Laura Devlin.