‘Infrastructure improvements must come first’

Edwin Poots MLA and Alderman Paul Porter with Laura Turner from Ballymacash Regeneration Group.
Edwin Poots MLA and Alderman Paul Porter with Laura Turner from Ballymacash Regeneration Group.

Opponents of plans for the construction of hundreds of new homes near Ballymacash say the area’s ailing infrastructure must be improved before any new developments are given the green light.

At their meeting on Monday, the council’s Planning Committee turned down an application for a proposed residential development of 650 dwellings on lands to the north and east of Ballymacash Primary School, east of Mourneview Park and Glenbrae and south of Glenavy Road.

While the plan refused by councillors was an old application submitted by the former owners of Draynes Farm, those against the development of the 84-acre site at Glenavy Road/Brokerstown Road say the same objections will apply when the committee is asked to make a determination on phase one of the 650-dwelling project being proposed by current owners MS Drayne, unless they can address existing infrastructural problems in the area.

MS Drayne has lodged an application for the construction of 99 dwellings under phase one of its proposed development. And an application for phase two of the scheme is expected to be submitted this autumn.

A spokesperson for the company stressed that they are committed to working with all relevant authorities and the local community in order to address any concerns about the proposed development.

However, opponents of the multi-million pound project say no more new housing schemes should be approved until the infrastructure problems in the area are dealt with.

Laura Turner of Ballymacash Regeneration Group, who attended Monday’s meeting, commented: “There is widespread opposition in the community to further development in the area as there has already been several thousand new homes built. Where are the needs of existing residents being addressed here when local people are struggling to get their children into local schools and their journeys to and from work are getting longer because of local traffic overload?

“We are aware that other proposals for development are in the pipeline and are setting a very clear marker that there will be major opposition to it for the reasons outlined in this failed attempt.”

Lagan Valley MLA Edwin Poots, who spoke against the application at Monday’s meeting, said appropriate infrastructural improvements must be in place prior to, or simultaneously with, any new development.

“Unfortunately in this area as a result of the building downturn post 2008 many promised infrastructure improvements have not been carried out, leaving existing residents living with traffic gridlock at peak times, primary and nursery schools bursting at the seams and a sewerage/drainage infrastructure under increased pressure,” he said.

“The notion that you could build a further 650 houses with a modest investment in the infrastructure is frankly a nonsense and would only compound the problems created by the developments that have recently been built without meeting the obligations imposed to improve infrastructure.”

Alderman Paul Porter listed six Article 40 agreements where other developers had failed to carry out proposed works such as widening roads, upgrading junctions and installing traffic signals.

“These issues need to be addressed before more houses are built and cars added to a road network that’s no longer fit for purpose,” the DUP man said.