Campaigners ‘concerned’ at council planning decision

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Image: Hillview Retail Park in north Belfast

By Una Murphy

Residents in north and south Belfast have “serious concerns” about the city council planning consultation process, according to Councillor Deirdre Hargey.

It followed a meeting of the Belfast City Council’s quasi judicial Planning Committee which rejected calls from campaigners who want houses built in The Gasworks off the Ormeau Road and in Hillview Retail Park off the Crumlin Road.

Councillor Hargey said on Twitter: “Belfast City Council Planning Committee has heard serious concerns from residents in south and north Belfast on the planning consultation process.”

The Planning Committee decided to go ahead with the retail park despite objections including campaigners backed by PPR (Participation and Practice of Rights) a human rights group set up by the late Inez McCormack, who are running a ‘Build Homes Now’ campaign and wanted social housing built on the site.

The Planning Committee meeting also agreed that an office block would be built on the Belfast Gasworks site in south Belfast, on land zoned for housing.  Sinn Fein has been running a campaign to build houses on the Gasworks site.

Councillor Hargey from Sinn Fein has branded as “disgraceful” the decision by the Planning Committee to allow an office block to be built in the GasWorks. She added that the offices will be built “on land zoned for housing in an area of critical need.”

The committee is one of two council committees whose decisions do not have to be ratified by the full council although the decision will be on the agenda for the full council meeting in early September.

Meanwhile Sinn Fein housing spokewoman Carál Ní Chuilín MLA at a meeting with Department of Communities civil servants last week called for “the authorities to prioritise vesting land in the years ahead to ensure that spiralling housing shortages are curbed.”

Community consultation rules for planning applications in Northern Ireland were introduced more than two years ago. A 12-week community consultation includes holding a public event in the area where the proposed development is to take place.

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