Gracehill Housing Scheme gets the green light from planners despite 70 letters of objection

A proposal for a social housing development in Gracehill, which attracted 70 letters of objection, has been approved by Council's Planning Committee.

The application by Fold Housing will see the construction of eight houses and 12 apartments on a site at Royal Court.

Decision on a recommendation by planners’ to approve the application had been deferred by Council’s Planning Committee for one month until their April meeting on Thursday to allow consultation with NI Housing Executive and Housing Associations on the application.

Updating members, Senior Planner Kyle Patterson said that at a subsequent consultation meeting, Fold Housing advised that the proposed development was based around existing housing need at the location and that housing need in the area had been confirmed by NIHE and he recommended approval of the application to the committee with conditions attached.

Speaking for objectors Councillor Timothy Gaston urged the planning committee to look at the objections which had been raised and highlighted objections in relation to potential for flooding and potential change of local character.

In relation to the latter, Councillor Gaston claimed that the development of three-storey apartments in the Royal Court estate would ‘stick out like a sore thumb’.

Speaking in support of the application, a representative of Turley’s said it had been subject to community consultation and that “Fold’s door has always remained open”.

It was also stated that the proposed housing mix was the specific need required for the site and that the application reflected social housing need in Ballymena and Galgorm

A letter circulated to members from the Northern Ireland Housing Executive on social housing need revealed that at December, 2015, there were 29 first preference applicants on the waiting list for Galgorm/Gracehill, 15 of whom were in housing stress, with one allocation made in the previous 12 months.

When put to the committee for decision on the proposal of Councillor AP Wilson, seconded by Councillor L Millar, to accept the planners’ recommendation, the application was approved on the casting vote of Committee Chair Robert Logan, after four members voted for (Councillor Logan, Councillor Millar, Councillor Stephen Nicholl, and Councillor A P Wilson) and four against (Councillor McDonald, Alderman T Nicholl, Councillor Adger and Councillor Billy Henry).

Councillor P Reid abstained from voting.