Plans for a multi-million pound housing development – consisting of some 200 properties – have been approved after a five-year wait.
The massive project was brought forward by the Newry-based MJM Group Ltd in 2013.
And the proposals proved controversial, attracting over 200 letters of objection.
But five years later and after negotiations involving the local community and representatives and the scheme has now been given the go-ahead.
The 200 homes would comprise 126 semi-detached and 61 detached, along with 13 townhouses, some of which would have garages.
The proposal was also included the “widening of existing Watsons Road and Dorans Hill, introduction of new roundabout and distributor road, planting of acoustic barrier along distributor road, proposed landscaping, open space, car parking, site and access works”.
Newry, Mourne and Down District Council’s planning committee – meeting in Newry this morning (Wednesday) – have agreed to give the go-ahead for the scheme.
And the decision has been welcomed by Councillor Liz Kimmins, who says it will “help alleviate the dire housing situation in the area”.
The Sinn Féin representative commended the local residents – Watsons Road Residents Group, Barcroft Community Association and Corrinshego Football Club – who engaged with developers MJM Group Ltd to bring the project to a successful conclusion.
She also praised the efforts of the developers – who are based at Carnbane Business Park – for listening to and addressing residents’ concerns.
Councillor Kimmins outlined the long and necessary path which had led to today’s outcome of approval.
She explained: “A planning application was submitted in 2013 for a residential housing development of 200 houses entailing a mixture of private and social housing.
“Many from the local community raised concerns with me mainly in relation to the stretch of road from the top of Barcroft to the junction at Watsons Road. This stretch of road is seen by most as very unsafe for pedestrians and motorists, and it was felt that the problem would be further compounded by the increase of traffic if this project was allowed.
“Over the past four years I have been working in partnership with the Watsons Road Residents Group, Barcroft Community Association and Thomas Davis GFC to try and resolve these concerns.
“I have facilitated numerous meetings between the community and planners, Transport NI and the developer, MJM.”
Councillor Kimmins said it was community engagement which had ensured today’s approval and added: “I am confident that the new development will help alleviate some of the current housing challenges that many of our community are facing.
“The outstanding issue of the creation of a footpath link from the greater Barcroft area, including the local primary schools, to the new housing development, and Thomas Davis’ planned sports development, has at this stage not been resolved, mainly due to the developer being unable to acquire the piece of property necessary from the owner. That option is still being pursued.
“Project developers MJM Marine – who have shown a great willingness to work with the local community – have given a firm commitment to try and resolve this and to continue to liaise with local residents and the community.”
Highlighting the benefits, she pointed to the development’s location adjacent to the main Dublin/Belfast economic corridor, which “facilitates a viable commute to industry centres for citizens of Newry”.
Work is expected to take up to six years to complete and this too, according to Councillor Kimmins, would provide “stable local employment for the construction industry”.
She added: “This prestigous project centres on the Dromalane ward, which has currently a designation of ‘area of multiple depreviation’ within the Deptartment for Communities. This development sends a clear signal to local communities of confidence, respect and action to redress the status.
“I commend all involved who helped move this from a vision now to a reality.
“It is viewed by most as an excellent outcome and I can assure all that I will continue to work to ensure the delivery of the overall aims and needs required for the local communities.”