‘Enormous’ plans for 1300 homes in Lisburn and new link road near M1 approved

An enormous housing estate of more than 1300 homes in Lisburn to be built near a major Northern Ireland motorway has been approved.

Tuesday, 13th April 2021, 11:37 am

The development will be either side the Maze Long Kesh site, Balmoral Park and in the vicinity of Blaris.

A new £12m road linking the M1 motorway to Knockmore Road has also been given the go-ahead together with permission in principle for 750,000sqft commercial floor space.

Around 9,000 jobs will be created over the next 20 years because of the ambitious plan, according to planners.

Neptune Carleton LLP applied to build the houses spread over the parcel of land which had been earmarked for development by Lisburn and Castlereagh City Council.

The master plan for the neighbourhood will also see the creation of a riverside park alongside the Lagan, with attractive landscaped and woodland walkways connecting to a range of new housing.

A 200-bed hotel, community hub of local shops, and facilities will also feature following the realignment and upgrade to Blaris Road.

An additional £500,000 will be awarded to Translink with the aim of creating a new park and ride system.

The planning consultant added that the link would be finished before the summer of 2023.

The project was split into two major applications with the 1300 dwellings falling under LA05/2018/1154/O and the M1 link road under LA05/2018/1155/F.

The planning committee debated the Outline Application for over three hours before coming to a decision.

Speaking in favour of the £250m project, MP for Lagan Valley Sir Jeffrey Donaldson, who joined the meeting remotely, said the site had “enormous commercial benefits” for Lisburn in the long term.

He added: “For me the biggest aspect that we are talking about today is the link road and the potential that it creates for the city of Lisburn.

“At the moment, let’s face reality, DfI have said that they are not going to fund the road and therefore we may wait decades for it to be delivered. Can Lisburn really afford that considering that’s realistically the only way we can expand the city?

“If that’s the case, then we must give weight to the need to ensure that the development is viable to deliver the link road because the road opens up potential for far more housing in the future.

“We can deliver more social and affordable housing if this link road is in place because there will be other lands that will be zoned. It’s the biggest development for years.”

However, Alliance councillor Martin Gregg said that if members voted in favour of the 65% breakdown for housing compared to the other 35% for employment, then they would be “selling the crown jewels”.

“I don’t understand how this council finds it acceptable to sacrifice the potential of that employment land for future years,” Cllr Gregg added.

“The Oxford report based on this project says that at least 50% of the land should be for employment but we are prepared to accept 35% as a council. It seems to me that we are selling the crown jewels.

“The future and prosperity of this long term is about unlocking the full economic potential of this site. It’s not about building 1300 houses on a key site that’s going to be influential for employment north, south and east, west within Northern Ireland.

“I think it’s short-sighted of this council if we accept a sacrifice of 65% for housing. It’s a once and a lifetime opportunity and if you put 1300 houses on it, then that’s gone. The red lines are here in front of us.

“I do see the merit in this but I do not see the merit in sacrificing so much economic land in the Lisburn and Castlereagh City Council area.”

Meanwhile, the development also drew two public objections.

Those against the applications said the proposals would have an impact of existing wildlife, increase traffic and have a potential negative impact on the character of the area.

Alderman Amanda Grehan also had concerns over the two applications. The Alliance representative said the proposed 10% of affordable houses (130 homes) at the development was “well short” of what was required.

The Lisburn North Cllr added: “The average house price in Lisburn are higher than the highest in Northern Ireland.

“I feel that does stop our children from purchasing houses and younger families too. I would ask that we look at putting a condition in that would add an additional 5% for affordable housing in the area.”

However, Planning Manager at Lisburn & Castlereagh City Council Conor Hughes advised Alderman Grehan that it wasn’t possible to seek further affordable housing without deferring the proposal and gathering further information from the applicant.

The prospect of a deferred decision prompted Ulster Unionist Councillor Jim Dillon into asking Alderman Grehan would she withdraw her proposal.

“This is one of the most important applications that has ever been in front of this council,” said Cllr Dillon. “It perhaps one of the most important one that has occurred in Lisburn in the last 50 or 60 years.

“This link road is of strategic importance to our city and we are not going to get the link road unless the houses go with it. and that has to weigh very heavily in our decision.

“The whole economic growth of Lisburn depends on our decision. We must think big and we must grasp the opportunity that is before us today, because if we don’t, then we will regret it for years to come.

“If we start tinkering about with it then we are putting the whole application in jeopardy because it’s for 10% social housing not 15% and I would ask my graciously good friend Amanda [Grehan] to withdraw her proposal.

“Not only do I think that she is wrong, but she could put this whole thing in jeopardy,” he added. “Further down the road if there is room for further social housing then I have no doubt that it will be considered.”

Application LA05/2018/1154/O received cross-party support except from Cllr Martin Gregg who voted against plans. However, the application for the link road off the M1 passed unanimously.