A 97-acre development project – submitted by an evangelical church – has been approved by councillors.
Green Pastures church plans to build an urban village on the fringe of Ballymena. The proposal includes a business park, training, social and student housing, a nursing home, a large church, hotel and retail premises.
However, objections had been raised by business leaders after the plans included a supermarket – with the independent retail lobby group NIIRTA calling on local councillors to support the town centre and reject the Green Pastures plan.
But today, Mid and East Antrim Borough Council’s Planning Committee voted in favour of the project.
Commenting on the decision, Cllr Robert Logan, chair of the Planning Committee, said: “There has been lot of debate and discussion over this long running and complex planning application.
“The Planning Committee has voted to accept the recommendation from the Mid and East Antrim Planning Department to approve the development.
“The developers of the scheme have made significant adjustments to their plans in order to meet with planning policy requirements.
“The committee understands that not everyone in Ballymena will be in favour of the development, however this decision was based on the evidence that was presented to the committee.
“Mid & East Antrim Borough Council will listen to all concerns raised by citizens in relation to planning applications. Following the transfer of planning powers to Northern Ireland’s councils, every planning decision made by councillors is made on a professional basis, in line with policy and taking into account the advice provided by our planning experts.”
Anne Donaghy, CEO of Mid and East Antrim Borough Council, added:“Council’s Planning Committee came here today to make a decision on a large and complex application and I commend them for making that decision in a considered and professional way.
“Legally, councillors have to approve or decline applications based on planning policy.
“Mid and East Antrim Borough Council supports local traders and retailers in Ballymena and we understand the concerns they have about out-of-town developments. We will continue to invest in Ballymena through the new public realm scheme to transform the town centre, and will also provide support to the plans to promote the town through Northern Ireland’s first Business Improvement District.”