Applications for the three-tiered scheme known as the Gateway Project, which sought to create what amounted to a new ‘out of town retail development, came before the Spatial planning committee last Thursday night.
Planners had been set to refuse one application and pass the other two, However decisions in all three proposals have been deferred after councillors requested a number of office meetings to discuss the plans.
Councillor Beth Adger requested they defer making a decision on plans for a food superstore, drive through restaurant and various other commercial outlets- which was set for refusal.
Councillor Monica Digney said she was in support of the decision to refuse these plans warning this development would “decimate” the town centre.
She said: “While I would support that everyone is entitled to an office meeting, I agree with this decision. We need to be mindful of our rate payers.
“We have spent a lot of money trying to redevelop the town centre and trying to bring trade into it. This massive development would totally decimate our town centre.”
The planning department received 29 letters of objection to this application and one letter of support.
Before the meeting Ballymena Chamber of Commerce and the Northern Ireland Independent Retail Trade Association (NIIRTA) have urged councillors to ‘stand up for their town centre’ and support the DOE recommendation to refuse planning permission for the hypermarket.
Ballymena Chamber President Alan Stewart and NIIRTA Chief Executive Glyn Roberts said: “Both our organisations would urge Councillors to stand up for their town centre and to support the recommendations of the Planning Service to refuse the proposed Green Pastures out of town hypermarket.”
Planners had been set to grant permission for the church, crèche and gym section of the scheme. They were also intent on granting permission for the creation of a business park, hotel and nursing home.
However they agreed to defer making a decision on these applications after requests by the Mayor of Ballymena, Councillor Audrey Wales, who said she was making the request on the behalf of objectors.
Councillor James Currie said he supported calls for office meetings in regards to the scheme as this would give the opportunity for objectors and supporters of the development to give their opinion.
Councillor Declan O’Loan wanted confirmation that in accepting office meetings, the council were not expressing a corporate view, which was agreed.