Venue: City Hall
Contact: Louise McLornan, Democratic Services Officer
Apologies were reported from Councillors Hutchinson, O’Hara and Whyte.
Declarations of Interest
Councillor Spratt declared an interest in items 2b and 2d – applications in respect of 24 Malone Park, in that he had previously engaged with residents regarding the site and he advised that he would leave the meeting for the duration of the item.
The Committee agreed to defer consideration of the above two applications for a site visit so that Members could familiarise themselves with the area.
LA04/2020/1943/F and LA04/2020/1944/LBC - Residential conversion of the existing listed warehouses to form 57 residential units (1 to 3 bed units, including 60% social and affordable to include a minimum of 20% social housing at 3-19 (Former Warehouse) Rydalmere Street PDF 1 MB
The Committee was reminded that the details of the application had been presented to it as part of the preceding Pre Determination Hearing which had taken place immediately prior to the Special Meeting.
The Principal Planning officer explained that DfI had confirmed that it was not calling in the application and that it was being returned to the Council for a decision.
DfI Roads had concerns regarding road safety and traffic progression as a result of insufficient parking. However, it had also provided conditions and informatives should the Council view that the development was acceptable.
The Committee was advised that the concerns which had been raised by DfI Roads should be balanced against the characteristics of the site, its sustainable location and the significantbenefits of the scheme, notably that it would bring the important listed buildings back into viableuse, deliver much needed affordable housing and that it would have regeneration benefits for the area.
A Member expressed deep frustration that DfI Planning had taken five months to return the application to the Council for its determination without any explanation. The Committee agreed that a letter be sent to DfI Planning expressing its frustration in relation to the delays and to request a timeline as to when the regulations that require mandatory Pre-Determination Hearings under such circumstances will be changed. it
After discussion, the Committee approved the application, subject to conditions and a Section 76 Planning Agreement, with delegated authority given to the Director of Planning and Building Control to finalise the wording.
(Councillor Brooks left the meeting at this point in proceedings)
LA04/2021/2280/F - Mixed use, mixed tenure residential-led development of 778 apartments in three buildings with internal and external amenity space; flexible commercial/community floorspace (convenience store with hot food counter/A1/A2/D1 uses/cafe/bar/restaurant); public realm including public square and waterfront promenade; cycle and car parking and associated landscaping, access roads, plant and site works including to existing river revetment on lands adjacent to and south east of the river Lagan, west of Olympic Way of Queen's Road, Queen's Island PDF 3 MB
The Senior Planning officer presented the details of the major application to the Committee. She explained that Blocks 11 and 11a were proposed for Build to Rent (BTR) accommodation whilst Block 9 was proposed for social housing (78 units), with the remainder being managed by the Housing Association for private rental. An area of the site (Area 10) would be dedicated as a public square called “South Yard Square”.
She outlined the main issues which had been considered during the assessment of the application included:
· the principle of a mixed-use development at that location;
· development of open space;
· housing delivery including affordable housing;
· transport including network capacity, parking provision and highway safety;
· design, layout and impact on the character and appearance of the area;
· impact on built heritage and archaeological interests;
· the quality of living environment for prospective residents;
· the impact on amenity of nearby residents and businesses;
· environmental protection and human health;
· waste management;
· drainage and flood risk;
· wastewater infrastructure;
· ecology and natural heritage;
· economic considerations;
· a Planning Agreement and developer contributions; and
· Pre-Application Community Consultation.
The Members were advised that the site was located within the development limit of Belfast in the BUAP 2001 and Draft BMAP 2015 (dBMAP, both versions). It was un-zoned, white land in the BUAP 2001 whilst under both versions of dBMAP 2015, Zoning BHA 01 allocated the site and wider lands at Titanic Quarter for mixed-use development. She explained that dBMAP 2015 (v2014) required development to accord with an overall Development Framework to be agreed by the Department. The Development Framework had been prepared in 2003, adopted by the former Department of Environment and was amended in 2010.
She explained that, as the site was within the development limit and considering the site context, relevant zonings and site history, the principle of a mixed-use development including housing was already established and was acceptable.
The Committee was advised that the proposed development would cost an estimated £117million to construct, generating an estimated 310 full time equivalent (FTE) construction jobs over three years. It was further estimated that non-residential uses at the proposed development would require a total of 80 gross direct FTE jobs onsite to support commercial/community operations in the retail, professional services, health and care and hospitality sectors.
She reported that a number of green travel measures were included as part of the application in order to mitigate the low level of parking spaces. The measures included Travel plans for each block, a travel fund of £400,000 to be managed through the Travel Plan process and used by Translink to provide Travel Cards and to support the G2 Glider. In addition, Belfast Bikes and Car Club membership were also proposed as well as the option of a bicycle voucher. She explained that there would be a flexible pot of money in which membership of the Belfast Bikes and Car Club schemes and the option of a bicycle voucher would be offered to residents and, if ... view the full minutes text for item 4b
(The High Sheriff, Councillor Hussey, left the meeting at this point in proceedings)
The Committee considered the undernoted report and the associated appendices which are available on mod.gov:
“1.0 Purpose of Report or Summary of Main Issues
1.1 The NI Assembly, Public Accounts Committee (PAC) has published a report and recommendations in relation to Planning in Northern Ireland. This paper provides an overview of the PAC report and recommended response from the Council. The proposed response is to be considered by the Strategic Policy and Resources Committee on 15 April 2022. A full copy of the PAC report is provided at Appendix 1 on mod.gov. The Council’s proposed response is provided at Appendix 2 on mod.gov.
2.1 That the Committee notes this report including the proposed response to the Public Accounts Committee at Appendix 2 on mod.gov.
3.1 In February 2022, the Planning Committee considered two recent reviews of the NI planning system:
· Firstly, the Northern Ireland Audit Office’s review of the NI planning system (copy provided at Appendix 3 on mod.gov); and
· Secondly, the Department for Infrastructure’s review of the implementation of the Planning Act (Northern Ireland) 2011 (copy provided at Appendix 4 on mod.gov).
3.2 Following publication of the Northern Ireland Audit Office (NIAO) report, the NI Assembly: Public Accounts Committee (PAC) has been hearing evidence from key stakeholders. The following sessions were held.
· Evidence from the Department for Infrastructure – 10 February 2022
· Evidence from SOLACE – 17 February 2022 (including evidence from Kate Bentley, Director of Planning and Building Control, Belfast City Council)
· Evidence from NILGA – 24 February 2022
3.3 The PAC subsequently published its report on ‘Planning in NI’ on 24 March 2022. This paper provides an overview of the PAC report and includes a recommended response from the Council. A full copy of the PAC report is provided at Appendix 1.
3.4 As further background reading, Members are referred to the agenda item to the February Planning Committee on the NI Audit Office report and the Departmental review of the implementation of the Planning Act (Northern Ireland) 2011, see link below:
4.0 Public Accounts Committee Report on Planning in NI
4.1 Consistent with the findings of the NIAO report published in February 2022, the PAC report is extremely critical of the NI planning system. It concludes that the planning system in Northern Ireland is not working effectively or efficiently. The PAC calls for a fundamental review, led by someone independent from the Department for Infrastructure, to bring about the long-term, strategic changes needed to make the planning system fit for purpose.
4.2 In relation to performance, the PAC observes that since the transfer of functions in 2015, planning authorities have failed to deliver on many of their key targets, particularly on major and significant development. The PAC was ‘appalled’ by the performance statistics. It states that it is simply unacceptable that almost one-fifth of the most important planning applications aren’t processed within three years highlighting ... view the full minutes text for item 6.