Council rejects advice and gives housing go ahead

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Councillors have given the green light for 258 social housing properties on the Springtown Road in Londonderry despite planning officers’ recommendation to refuse.

Elected representatives on Derry and Strabane Council decided the need for more social housing ‘considerably outweighed’ the planning policy.

The application was for the ‘construction of social/affordable residential development and community centre with works to include new access to Springtown Road, upgrades to Springtown Road and junction of Hawthorne Drive’.

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A council officer told the committee the proposal is contrary to the Derry Area Plan and it would set ‘undesirable precedent for other development outside the limits’.

Despite the need for social housing, officers considered there was ‘ample supply of zoned housing land and land existing within the limits of development in the city which can accommodate this housing in a more sustainable manner’.

Daniel McAteer, representative for Hartlands NI Ltd and Apex Housing Association, reminded the panel “we are not here for a fight, we are here to discuss the policy”, before saying: “Where there is an up to date plan, applications which are outside the limit should invite a rejection unless there are good reasons to say otherwise. So the answer is no unless we can persuade you otherwise to say yes.

“The situation here is we have an out of date plan, hopelessly so, the court would describe it as, so we are now operating on a plan that expired in 2011.”

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Mr McAteer continued: ”There is a misconception that a line drawn around Derry in the year 2000 should act as a barrier to economic development or improvement for the local community.

“There is a screaming need for social housing in this area. Every single political party that we talk to will tell us they could fill these houses tomorrow morning.”

Stating he was “going to put his cards on the table”, SDLP councillor John Boyle said: “Whilst I’m not inclined to overturn the officers’ recommendation but where this committee decides that’s what they wish to do I would respect it.”

Proposing the officers’ recommendation to refuse was not accepted, Sinn Fein councillor Christopher Jackson said: “The basis for that is going back to the very substantial social housing need that’s in place here in the city.”