Developer laments eight month delay in £500m ‘city expansion’ due to Department of Infrastructure intervention

A property developer believes that Infrastructure Minister Nichola Mallon’s department has unreasonably intervened to freeze a £500m ‘city expansion’ south of Lisburn which was passed by the local council over eight months ago.

The proposed development by Neptune Carleton LLP consists of two major planning applications with Lisburn and Castlereagh City Council (LCCC) which were approved in April but have since stalled due to intervention by the Department of Infrastructure (DfI).

The proposals include 1300 new homes, including 130 affordable homes, a new neighbourhood shopping area and over 750,000 sq. ft. of commercial floorspace. The plans also include a £15mn developer funded 1.6km road and bridge over the River Lagan to connect the M1/A101 road at Sprucefield, to a new junction at Moira Road/Knockmore Road, linking up with the Maze Long Kesh and RUAS Eikon sites.

Director of Neptune Carleton LLP, Mr Patrick Heffron, said they have worked hard for five years to secure planning approval from LCCC.

A plan view of the proposed £500m expansion of Lisburn to the south of the city, next to the Sprucefield Roundabout.

“The applications were strongly supported by both the locally elected public representatives and the community,” he said. “We have waited eight months now for a response from DfI and have heard nothing of note. We recently asked to meet the Minister to seek an update and express concern at the delay. Remarkably, Minister Mallon resisted a meeting and could not even offer any indication as to when DfI will release their block on the applications.”

He added that it was “amazing” that DfI “seem to have no interest or imperative” in seeing the £500m investments delivered to the area.

A DfI spokesman said that it has intervened due “the proposed development’s potential conflict” with three different area plans and planning policies; the Regional Development Strategy 2035, Lisburn Area Plan 2001, the draft Belfast Metropolitan Area Plan 2015 and the Strategic Planning Policy Statement and Planning Policy Statements. He said there is “the potential for the proposed development to impact on the implementation of the plan-led system”.

“It is, therefore, considered to be an exceptional case and the regional and sub-regional issues raised would benefit from further scrutiny by the Department.

“These applications are now within the jurisdiction of DfI. As soon as the Department is in receipt of all the documentation regarding the applications, it will assess all material planning considerations and progress the application for the Minister to decide as soon as possible.”

Chair of LCCC Planning Committee, Councillor Alex Swan, said the council is “disappointed” with DfI’s decision.

“Following a thorough and robust consideration process, Lisburn & Castlereagh City Council’s Planning Committee approved two major planning applications which would pave the way for significant investment in the Lisburn and Castlereagh area. These applications also represent important infrastructure and development opportunities for Northern Ireland,” he said.

“We have recently received correspondence from the Department for Infrastructure, confirming their intention to refer the applications to the Department, as in their opinion they consider the proposals would benefit from further scrutiny. We are disappointed that the Department has chosen this course of action and in how long it has taken to reach this decision. This will inevitably lead to a delay in the realisation of important infrastructure and investment.

“The Council is reflecting on the implications of this decision and will engage closely with and respond in due course to the Department.”

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