It appears a controversial development in the heart of a Co Down village may now have taken its first step.
The popular 400-year-old Old Inn at Crawfordsburn submitted blueprints for a massive revamp some time ago, including plans for a large facade around its car park that could obscure the leafy view beyond – something which now dominates the village’s Main Street.
On Tuesday, residents noticed the village post box, at the edge of the Old Inn’s car park, had vanished.
They were up in arms over what they saw as the loss of a local service, and it now turns out this disappearing pillar-box may be the first visible sign the big development is set to forge ahead.
Royal Mail said: “The post box in Crawfordsburn village was sited on private land and has been removed at the request of the landowner.”
It added that although the box will be replaced it may take up to six weeks, and apologised for any inconvenience.
“I think we’re reassured actually it’ll get relocated within the village,” said independent North Down councillor Brian Wilson, adding: “I think we now know the reason behind it – it was because the development (of the Old Inn) was about to take place and it had to be removed from private property.”
Late yesterday, the Department of the Environment confirmed approval of the plans will indeed happen soon, subject to conditions (though it is unclear what these are).
Mr Wilson said the plans would involve blocking the green view of Crawfordsburn Country Park, which is something of a centrepiece for the whole settlement, and that residents had fought “quite vigorously” against the proposals which threaten to “change the whole character of Crawfordsburn”.
DUP MLA Gordon Dunne declared himself “disappointed” by the pending approval, and is to seek a meeting with the environment minister.
But meanwhile, residents of the village – many of them elderly – now have no immediate access to a post box.
One of those objecting to its removal was Robin Masefield, former director-general of the Prison Service and a acting secretary of the Helen’s Bay and Crawfordsburn Residents’ Association.
When told that measures are now under way to relocate the box, and that in the meantime alternative ones should be used, he asked pointedly: “Where are they?”
The nearest options, he suggested, may be as far away as Helen’s Bay or west Bangor.
Danny Rice, applicant of the plans at the Old Inn, could not be reached yesterday.