Agenda item


The Principal Planning officer provided the detail of the applications which sought full permission and Listed Building Consent for the change of use from a pump house and cafe/restaurant to a distillery with associated ancillary visitor tour facilities. It included works to the listed building that comprised relocation and reconfiguration of a platform lift and stair, construction of internal walls, the reconfiguration of the toilet area at mezzanine level, the provision of an accessible toilet at ground floor, alterations and extension to the existing mezzanine floor, new openings in the existing external and internal walls for access and services, the installation of meeting / viewing room pod with associated internal bridge structure and the installation of distillery equipment and platform.


He advised the Members of the key issues which had been considered in the assessment of the applications, which included:


·        the principle of the proposed use;

·        the design and impact on built heritage;

·        the impact on natural heritage;

·        access and parking;

·        flood risk; and

·        waste management.


The Committee was advised that the application site, at Thompson Dock Pump House, was a Grade B1 Listed Building.  It was also adjacent to two Scheduled Monuments, namely, Alexandra Dry Dock and Thompson Dry Dock.


The Principal Planning officer explained that the site was within the development limits of Belfast within the Belfast Urban Area Plan 2001 and Draft Belfast Metropolitan Area Plan 2015 (v2004 and v2014) (dBMAP 2015).


He reported that the proposal had been assessed against, and was considered acceptable having regard to the SPPS for Northern Ireland, the Belfast Urban Area Plan 2001, the Draft Belfast Metropolitan Area Plan 2015, PPS2, PPS3, PPS6, PPS13, PPS15 and PPS16, as well as other relevant material considerations.


The Members were advised that the application included 50 car parking spaces within the red line site and that a lease agreement had been agreed with Catalyst Inc. to avail of overspill car parking when necessary. He added that the application, if approved, would include a car parking condition to ensure adequate parking spaces for the development.


The Principal Planning officer advised that DfI Rivers Flood Maps (NI) confirmed that the site was affected by the 1 in 200 year coastal plain and therefore FLD 1 of PPS 15 applied. He outlined that the proposed development constituted an exception to the policy as stated within FLD 1, in that the building was existing and the site had been previously developed. He explained that a drainage/flood risk assessment had been submitted, which noted that the project had regional economic importance as a visitor destination and given the listed building status to be used for the distillery, an alternative location would not secure the long term use and associated upkeep and maintenance of the regionally significant listed building.  The report considered that all sources of flood risk to and from the proposed development had been identified and that there were adequate measures to manage and mitigate any increase in flood risk arising from the development. He advised that it confirmed that the existing ground floor and lower floors would flood in a T200 Tidal event.


The Committee was advised that the dock was a Scheduled Monument, so no external flood prevention walls or measures were possible, but that mitigation measures, including flood Resilience measures, demountable floor guards, the implementation of robust flood mitigation measures together with flood alarms and a flood emergency evacuation plan were proposed. The report concluded that if all the recommendations in the report were implemented fully then it was considered that the proposal had an acceptable level of flood risk.


The Committee was asked to note that there had been no objections raised by consultees, including NI Water, Rivers Agency and DAERA Natural Environment Division.  He advised that DFI Roads, HED Historic Buildings, DAERA Water Management Unit and Environmental Health had no objections to the proposal, subject to conditions.  He explained that responses from HED Historic Monuments and DAERA Marine and Fisheries Division were still outstanding. Following advertisement in the local press as well as neighbour notification, no written representations had been received.


            The Chairperson advised the Committee that Mr. R. O’Toole, planning agent, was in attendance to answer questions in respect of the application.


            In relation to a Member’s question, Mr. O’Toole confirmed that there was already an existing consent in relation to the discharging of waste to the harbour sewer system from the existing building. He advised the Members that the change of use from the current tourist facility, café and restaurant should not materially increase the waste discharge.


In response to a further question from a Member, Mr. O’Toole confirmed that the trade effluent discharge consent had not yet been received from NI Water.


A Member requested clarity from officers in relation to the response from the Rivers Agency, which stated that the application had not been given exception status from the planning authority but whereby the report stated that it had been given exception status.  The Principal Planning officer advised the Committee that it was deemed an exception, given that it was an existing building and it constituted the re-use of a building, within a brownfield site, in a floodplain.


The Member expressed concern that there was a serious risk to life in terms of flood risk at the location and queried who would be charged with assessing the emergency evacuation plan. 


The Director of Planning and Building Control advised the Committee that the responsibility would fall to the applicant in terms of how the site would be managed.  She added that the Committee should be mindful in terms of the use of the proposal, which was for a tourist facility and not residential use, and should therefore be proportionate in its consideration.


The Divisional Solicitor added that there was legislation in respect of health and safety at work and in regard to non-employees at the site, and that that would be included as part of the risk assessments, including flood risk.


            The Committee granted approval and consent to the applications, subject to conditions, with the final wording of conditions delegated to the Director of Planning and Building Control.


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