Newspaper for Crossmaglen, South Armagh, Newry and Down.

Controversial housing development refusal overturned on appeal

A decision by Newry Mourne and Down District Council to refuse planning approval for a social housing development incorporating an access pedestrian bridge in Newry has been overturned on appeal.

The proposed development by Helm Housing for the construction of 14 housing units and a 24ft wide bridge to link two residential areas at Lindsay Hill and St. Clare’s Avenue led to complaints from residents who lodged objections to the scheme.  Among main concerns was that the bridge would encourage youths to congregate and potentially become a focal point for anti-social behaviour.

In its design and access statement submission, Helm Housing insisted the development would “help to address an urgent need for social housing in this area”.

Last year Council planners refused the application and in March an appeal was heard by the Planning Appeals Commission.  On Wednesday last, the Commission overturned the Council’s initial refusal and approved the application.

In his considerations, the Commissioner dismissed the residents’ fears of anti-social activity.  

“I have not been convinced that the bridge would create a ‘tunnel’ similar to subways in the city centre where people congregate and anti-social behaviour is an issue.  Rather, the development is designed to deter crime and promote personal safety.  The erection of new family dwellings on the appeal site would introduce natural surveillance to an area that is currently isolated, and preclude anti-social behaviour on the site,” he said.

Local councillors Liz Kimmins and Gary Stokes lobbied on behalf of the concerned residents and attended March’s appeal hearing.  Wednesday’s judgement granting full planning permission has been met with disappointment by Sinn Fein’s Councillor Kimmons who said the decision is a “blatant disregard of residents’ concerns”.

“Following the planning appeals hearing on Thursday 29th March, which I attended in support of the residents of St Clare’s Avenue and the greater High Street area who have objected to a planning application at Lindsay’s Hill, I am extremely disappointed to learn that the decision by Council has been overturned and full planning permission has been granted,” she said.

“The application was refused by Council in July 2017 by the Planning Committee following strong objections from the community who are concerned that the bridge would not only decimate the heritage and history associated with Lindsay Hill, but will have a negative impact on the quality of life of the residents of St Clare’s Avenue.  Lindsay Hill was established in the 19th century and is one of the few sites in Newry which has been preserved, and the local community have strongly emphasised the need to protect this.

“I have consistently been lobbying on behalf of the community to highlight concerns regarding the erection of this bridge as it was widely felt that it would also exacerbate anti-social behaviour in the area, providing a sheltered area which would encourage anti-social elements similar to those in the nearby underpass at Abbey Way.  It is deeply disappointing that the wishes of the residents, many of whom have lived here their whole lives, have been disregarded without any attempts to find a compromise.”

Paying tribute to the efforts of the community, Councillor Kimmins added: “I want to acknowledge the strong community campaign to uphold the Council’s decision to refuse this application, and to commend in particular a number of local residents who have worked extremely hard to protect Lindsay Hill and to protect this community’s interests.  I will continue to work with all to ensure that these concerns are to the fore.”