Residents from Edenderry village have expressed their shock after a controversial proposed riverside development was recommended for approval by planners.
The Ulster Society for the Protection of the Countryside (USPC) has praised Lisburn City councillors who managed to have the application, which has so far received over 500 objections, deferred.
Developers want to build a four-storey mixed-use development, under phase 2 of the work, including craft workshop, interpretative centre, restaurant, retail unit, offices, open space, car parking and footbridge over the River Lagan on land at Edenderry Mill, in the village which is in the Lagan Valley Regional Park.
The application has been deemed “not appropriate” for the village and the local wildlife, by wildlife experts, whilst residents say they are “in a state of total disbelief” following the planners’ decision.
The USPC has produced a modified photograph of phase 1 of the work, with the trees and grassy bank removed, to illustrate the true height of underbuilding/flood defences required for phase 2. They say there is one important difference. With the planners refusing to impose a five metre wide exclusion zone, requested as a condition by the NI Environment Agency for a wildlife corridor, principally for the otters, who need an uninterrupted six mile corridor to survive.
It also cannot be used “for extensive planting as a means of assimilating the built development and mitigating its adverse landscape and visual impact” as required by the Landscape Architects Branch. They conclude in their response this proposal “is unacceptable because it is contrary to policy (U10 of the Lagan Valley Regional Park local plan) and would also have a significant impact on landscape character, T.P.O trees and visual amenity of the area.”
Local resident Cathy Rice said: “Many in the village are in a state of total disbelief that the planners have chosen to ignore over five hundred objections, not just from ourselves, the National Trust and the Lagan Valley Regional Park but also those from their own experts in the NIEA, the Landscape Architects Branch and even the River Agency, who have stated it also breaches Flood Plain Policy. It’s disgraceful.”
Michael Walker, of the USPC, continued, “NIEA have informed us it would be inappropriate to challenge, unless there were extenuating circumstances, the basis on which the outline approval had been given.
“We believe two such circumstances do exist. Firstly although the otters were considered to be transitory at the time of O.P.P. consideration, they have since been confirmed as having a permanent presence in a 2010 NIEA otter survey.
“Secondly to give permission would be to knowingly permit a criminal offence to take place, namely the disturbance of the habitat of a protected species, the otter.
“Regrettably at this stage we are all out of polite requests, so instead the USPC is making a simple demand to the director of natural heritage at NIEA - protect this rare and beautiful creature - do your job, not by imposing completely totally toothless conditions, but by insisting that the planners refuse the application. We hope the public join us in making similar demands.”
A DOE spokesperson said: “Outline planning permission for the proposal was approved by the Department on February 24 2006.
A Reserved Matters application was submitted in April 2007. This was recommended for approval at a Lisburn City Council Meeting on June 2 2014 and was deferred at the request of the Council.
“The application is still under review.”