Proposal for retirement village at former Larne convalescent hospital given the go-ahead

Mid and East Antrim Council’s Planning Committee has approved a planning application for a retirement village and nursing home outside Larne.

Proposals for 27 apartments, five cottages, a 69-bed facility and nine independent units recommended for approval were given the go-ahead on Thursday.

The application says that the “village” will be created though the restoration/conversion/partial demolition and extension of the existing grade B listed Victorian Cairndhu House, adjacent to Carnfunnock Country Park, which dates back to 1875. This will provide 17 apartments and a “community resource centre”.

The restoration/conversion/partial demolition and extension of an accompanying listed stable block is expected to provide 10 retirement apartments.

Cairndhu House

The construction of a 69-bed nursing home to include palliative care has been proposed as well as five “retirement” cottages and nine “independent living units”.

The derelict Cairndhu House has fallen into disrepair since it ceased operating as a convalescent hospital in 1986.

In 2015, the grounds were used to film scenes for the sci-fi movie ‘Morgan’, produced by film-maker Ridley Scott.

Gary McGuinness, the council’s principal planning officer, noted a site visit by committee members took place on October 19. He reported that HED (Historic Environment Division) has now offered no objections.

An artist’s impression of the Cairndhu House development.

He added: “A further delay will ensure there is no building to preserve. Vandalism continues and the building is near collapse. If the building goes, the bats will go as well.”

Bat Species

Bat species are protected by law. Concerns have been raised by Northern Ireland Environment Agency representatives who said that a “significant bat roost” and range of bat species was present.

Johann Muldoon, the applicant’s agent, told the committee her client has spent £0.25m to progress the application to this stage of the planning process.

She said the building has deteriorated since the application was submitted and acknowledged that although statutory consultees exist to protect heritage, she suggested the delay has “cost this heritage significantly”.

“If it is left or there is any further delay, without doubt, the heritage will be lost. If this is not approved, my client will not be spending any more money and the asset will be lost,” she added.

Larne Lough DUP Alderman Paul Reid was advised that lowering of gable frontage has resolved issues with HED.

“One department is satisfied and another is not satisfied. We are piggy in the middle. We are the decision-makers here and we have the right to make a decision.”

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Mr McGuinness said that bat roosts will have to be put in place. Ald Reid suggested a planning officer sees the drawings before work starts.

Michelle Weir, Local Democracy Reporter