Agenda item


            (Councillor Spratt, having declared an interest in this item, left the meeting at this point in proceedings)


            The Principal Planning officer outlined that permission had previously been granted for a two storey extension to the private hospital, which was extant.


He explained that the key issues which had been considered during the assessment of the application included:


·        the acceptability of the proposed use at this location;

·        the acceptability of the design;

·        impact on surrounding context – listed buildings and draft area of townscape character;

·        access, parking and traffic management; and

·        environmental considerations - drainage, contamination and noise


The Members were advised that the principle of a three storey extension to the existing hospital was considered acceptable given that permission was previously granted for a two storey extension on the site.


The Principal Planning officer explained that the proposal had been the subject of a Pre-Application Discussion (PAD) and that it had been amended during the PAD process to address design issues raised by the Urban Design Officer, HED and the Conservation Officer. He confirmed that the Urban Design Officer, HED and the Conservation Officer were all now content with the proposed scheme.


The Committee was advised that the scale, height and massing of the proposed extension was considered acceptable and appropriate to the surrounding area. The design and materials had drawn cues from the immediate context and were considered acceptable.


The Members were advised that no third party objections had been received.


The Principal Planning officer drew the Member’s attention to the Late Items pack, whereby a response had been received from DFI Roads on 14th February. It offered no objection to the proposed development, subject to conditions and to a minor amendment to the car parking layout which necessitated the removal of one car parking space.  A revised plan had been submitted to address that technical issue.


He outlined that NI Water had objected to the application on the grounds of insufficient waste-water drainage infrastructure capacity.


            A response had been received from NI Water in response to an officer’s request for specific evidence to demonstrate the following:-


·        lack of capacity for the specific development;

·        resultant detrimental harm and how it would manifest;

·        how the proposed additional floorspace over and above the previously approved 2 storey development on the site (LA04/2017/0005/F) would have a harmful impact; and

·        how the specific proposal would have a harmful impact over and above developments that had already been committed in Belfast (i.e. extant permissions).


In response NI Water had stated that:


1.     It had carried out extensive population and flow and load studies which had both confirmed that the existing Belfast Waste Water Treatment Works (WWTW) was operating above design capacity. As a result, NI Water had commenced the upgrade of the treatment works. The initial upgrade work would be completed by June 2023 and some additional capacity would be available from 1st July 2023. Further phases of upgrade work were planned throughout April 2021 – March 2027, subject to available funding;


2.     Continuing to approve new foul connections would add additional biological loading to the existing overloaded treatment works, increasing the risk of failing its Water Order Consent Standards set by Northern Ireland Environment Agency (NIEA). Its previous consultation response


3.     had also confirmed a high level assessment had indicated potential wastewater network capacity issues. If confirmed, that established environmental risks, including pollution, flooding and detrimental impact on existing properties. In accordance with its advice, the applicants Drainage Consultant had applied for a Wastewater Impact Assessment and had submitted additional flow calculations. The application was currently being processed by NI Water;


4.     The amended proposal included for 2 additional beds, 8 patient pods, endoscopy suite and administration facilities. It was NI Water’s opinion that that would result in an increased biological loading. It was, however, acknowledged that the volumetric discharge (hydraulic loading) to the existing combined sewer could be reduced through on-site attenuation and flow control which would address the network capacity issues; and


5.     NI Water had a duty to approve connections for all proposed development with extant planning. Although the site had extant approval for a 2 storey extension, and, it was highly likely the volumetric discharge could be reduced for the proposal (which would address the network capacity issues), it was NI Water’s opinion that the additional storey would result in increased biological loading. Subject to successful hydraulic loading outputs from the Wastewater Impact Assessment, NI Water would consider a negative condition to permit the construction of additional storey to be constructed but not occupied until 1st July 2023 when additional biological treatment capacity would be available.


            The Principal Planning officer explained that there were ongoing discussions between the applicant and NI Water on this issue.  He advised the Committee that NI Water had not addressed the fall-back of the significant number of un-implemented planning permissions for residential and commercial development across the city.


In response to a Member’s question, the Planning Manager advised the Committee that there were planned works on the Waste Water Treatment plant within 18 months and that officers did not feel that there were adequate grounds to refuse the application based on capacity for the reasons set out in the report. 


            The Deputy Chairperson put the officer’s recommendation, to grant approval to the application subject to conditions and a Section 76 Agreement to secure an Employability and Skills Plan, with delegated authority given to the Director of Planning and Building Control to finalise the wording of conditions and the Section 76 Agreement, to the Committee.


            On a vote, eight Members voted for the proposal, one against and with three no votes, it was accordingly declared carried.


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