A proposal for a new outlet of the Canadian coffee and doughnut chain at the former Frankie and Benny’s restaurant, more recently Monroe’s, was unanimously approved at a meeting of Mid and East Antrim Borough Council’s Planning Commitee on Thursday morning. The proposal involves alterations to the existing premises to form a “drive-thru” cafe with outdoor seating area and was considered by planners to be “appropriate to the site in terms of design and appearance”. There was one letter of objection, from the Costa Coffee chain, which operates an outlet on the site at Larne Road Link. A report to the Planning Committee said that issues raised included the introduction of a second drive-through cafe which could “change the dynamic” of the location to a “car focused development” and lead to car “stacking”, the report said. It was also noted in the report that the proposal could have an impact on the “amenity of sit-down users at Costa Coffee from increased noise, fumes and visual amenity” and could “present a danger to Costa Coffee users navigating the carpark on foot”. There were no objections from Transport NI in terms of road safety or access arrangements. Planners concluded that the proposal was considered to be “acceptable” saying that it is “in keeping with the adjacent land uses and as such will give rise to vehicle movement, noise and fumes”. The report added: “These are all typical of the area and are not felt to be excessive.”
Martin Kelly, of Gravis Planning, told the committee that the development was “in keeping with the general character of the area” and would be accessed by the existing access and on-site parking. He stated that it is a “very positive development for Ballymena” which would bring “significant investment and job creation”.
Alderman Paul Reid commented: “This is a good news story for Ballymena and at that end of the town. There are three restaurants already in that area.” Bannside party colleague Cr Tom Gordon said: “A number one priority for Mid and East Antrim is job creation. I am a great supporter of that. I have great pleasure in accepting the officer’s recommendation to approve the application.” This proposal was seconded by Ulster Unionist Councillor Keith Turner.
Tim Hortons is an increasing presence in Northern Ireland. The company’s first outlet in Belfast opened at Fountain Street in May 2018 followed by the chain’s first “drive-thru” in the Province at Connswater Shopping Centre and Retail Park in December 2018.
Outside Belfast, branches are now located at Glengormley, Cookstown and Coleraine with a sixth due to open in Bangor.