The Planning Appeals Commission has rejected proposals to extend the life of the city centre car park at Jordan’s Mill.
The car park has been at the centre of controversy for over a decade now, with a campaign to keep it open, and another calling for the site to be redeveloped.
Outline planning permission has been granted for the redevelopment of the site, which will include both residential and retail accommodation. However, whilst full planning permission has yet to be sought, the owners of the car park have applied for permission to continue to operate temporarily as a car park.
After their application was refused by the Planning Service, the owners. JIPCO Ltd, appealed the decision, submitting a petition by customers in support of their proposal to keep the car park open.
At the end of January the Planning Appeals Commission issued their determination on the application, stating that there was no need for the city centre car park.
In her determination, the Commissioner said the main issue in the appeal was whether there was a need for a car park.
“Whilst the onus is not on the Department to demonstrate need, it provided a list of the car parks available in the city centre, along with their occupancy rates,” she said.
“This information indicates that of a total of 3245 spaces, only 710 were in use in the morning, with 1330 in use in the afternoon. They argued that there is no need for the car park as there is surplus parking space available.
“The Appellants’ evidence is restricted to those who use or benefit from the car park. It is therefore subjective in nature.
“One would expect those using a car park to reply in the affirmative when openly asked if it is needed. Similarly, nearby traders are also likely to state that the car park is needed.
“A convenient car park is good for business. I therefore prefer the numerical evidence from the Department. This clearly indicates a surplus of car parking provision in the city centre.
“As it has been demonstrated that there is a surplus of parking available in the city centre, I find there is no need for the car park.”
The Chairman of Lisburn City Council’s Economic Development Committee, Alderman Jim Dillon said he was disappointed that the PAC had rejected the appeal.
“This will be a tragedy for Lisburn,” said Mr Dillon. “It is the most popular car park in Lisburn and a considerable number of people have told me that if it closes they will stop coming to Lisburn to shop.
“There are big plans for that site but it is going to take time to do that.
“I think it is very foolish to close the car park and leave it lying derelict with the grass growing.”
Former Lisburn Councillor, Mr Ronnie Crawford, who has been a strong advocate for the redevelopment of the Jordan’s Mill site, has welcomed the decision by the Planning Appeals Commission.
“Had the Council not supported the various delaying tactics over the past decade, we may well have a had a development in place now which would have prospered our struggling city centre,” said Mr Crawford.
“The Department must now ensure that the car park is not allowed to continue to operate illegally and hopefully we will soon see plans for an exciting development of the site,”