Controversial ‘Big Screen’ to be removed

October 24, 2016

The giant free- standing digital TV screen sited in the heart of Newry city could be removed by March next year, if a retrospective planning application is granted by the council this week.

A Planning Committee meeting set for this Wednesday (26th October) will discuss the deadline for the removal of the screen with planners recommending a temporary approval of the screen until March, in line with the original granting of permission (on March 10, 2015) by the Department of Environment (DOE), which stated that the screen was to be removed two years from the date of the decision.

The screen, which is situated in Marcus Square in the city adjacent to the historical Cathedral building, prompted public outcry when it was installed last December, with many labelling the huge structure an “eyesore” and others questioning its practicality. Clergy claimed that neither the Parochial House nor the Cathedral were informed of plans for the Big Screen as part of a neighbour notification exercise by DoE and sought a judicial review into the planning decision.

In May this year, a judicial review concluded with an order to quash the DoE decision to grant planning approval for the Big Screen. The court gave the council permission to re-submit a planning application to notify the correct neighbours.

As the DoE is no longer responsible for local planning applications, the application must now be determined by the new planning authority, Newry, Mourne and Down District Council.

The agenda for Wednesday’s meeting  stated that “the level of public objection is noted” following the advertisement of the full application by the council and added that the screen has received  a high level of attention in the media following the challenge made by the Cathedral and the resultant high level of public objections is noted.

“The planning department agrees that the screen is not an appropriate permanent feature in this part of the Square because it adversely affects the setting of the listed Cathedral and important views within the Conservation Area, and it is not sympathetic with the characteristic built form of the area.

“In order to permit an orderly process for removal or relocation of the screen, it is recommended that a temporary approval is issued with a condition that the screen is to be removed by March 10, 2017.”

There is mounting speculation however that the screen could in fact be removed before the Christmas holidays following recent meeting s between church officials and the council.