The environment minister has backed planners who blocked alternative, cheaper car parking facilities to those at Belfast City Airport.
A park and ride service has been available at the nearby Ikea multi-storey since 2011, but a decision to grant planning permission was reversed after a DUP councillor requested the matter be deferred by the town planning committee.
The intervention by Adam Newton was followed by a formal refusal by the planning service – which has left local businessman Pat Boal annoyed at the decision.
Explaining the U-turn, a planning spokeswoman said a number of “policy and legal issues” were raised following the initial approval.
She said “legal advice was taken and DRD Roads Service were reconsulted” before the Department of the Environment concluded the approval decision was flawed – with the applicant having failed to demonstrate a need for a “stand-alone” car park.
This decision was then agreed by Belfast City Council last month.
Yesterday, minister Mark H Durkan met with planners and afterwards said he had listened to the frustrations expressed by Mr Boal and was “conscious of how this situation looks from the outside”.
He added: “Planners, however, have to take decisions based on planning policy. The decision to refuse was taken having regard to legal advice and on the basis that the applicant had not demonstrated need.
“I would encourage Mr Boal, if he decides to appeal this decision, to submit more evidence to demonstrate need which would help to address the concerns of planners and provide greater choice for consumers.”
Mr Boal said his facility costs travellers around half the price of the on-site airport rates.
Speaking to the News Letter yesterday, he said he plans to appeal the latest decision.
“They refused it on the grounds there was insufficient evidence that another car park was required at Belfast City Airport, but I have been operating for two years here and we have hundreds of cars coming through every day.”
A spokesman for the City Airport said: “While we welcome competition it must adhere to the same planning restrictions that the airport operates within. Car parking at Belfast City Airport is competitively priced with significant savings for booking online in advance.”
A DUP spokesman said Mr Newton had asked for the matter to be deferred to allow the airport to meet with the planners, and added: “He attended the office meeting in the planning department along with airport and Strategic Planning. No objection was lodged against the planning application by Adam.”