Questions raised about “affordable” housing guidelines on plan for new Dunmurry apartments
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At the most recent meeting of the Belfast City Council Planning Committee, a plan was approved for a stepped one-to-four storey mixed-use proposal comprising 13 apartments, with a ground floor coffee shop and 13 car parking spaces.
The development, by Glenoak Limited of Templepatrick, will be built at 160-164 Kingsway Dunmurry BT17. There are ten proposed three-person two-bed apartments, two two-person one-bed apartments and one four-person two-bed apartment.
There will be three “affordable” housing units in the block, at a discount market rented price.
Council planning guidance states that planning permission will only be granted for residential development on sites greater than 0.1 hectares where a minimum of 20% of units are provided as affordable housing. This is the first application the council has dealt with under new guidelines defining “affordable” market prices.
The site is currently a brownfield plot of land that has been cleared of buildings and fenced off, at the junction of Kingsway and Church Avenue, a residential road mainly occupied by Victorian/Edwardian detached villas. The eastern or Church Avenue boundary of the site is directly opposite to Dunmurry Park, a public green open space.
The development site is located on the major arterial route linking Lisburn and Belfast, and is close to the Dunmurry rail halt, on the Belfast/Portadown line.
There were no objections to the plan from any of the statutory bodies involved. One objection was received by the council from a Kingsway area local, raising issues regarding density, site parking provision, height, scale, and massing.
Concerns were also raised at the Planning Committee meeting by Green Councillor Áine Groogan, who asked for the application to be deferred for further consideration of the new affordable housing guidelines.
She told the chamber: “I am a little concerned as to the affordable housing context, and why it is not social housing.
"My understanding with the new planning guidance is that there would be almost a hierarchy of what we would prefer, shall we say, in terms of affordable housing.
“I would like some kind of rationale as to why we just look at market rent and not social housing, particularly if there are subventions available for social housing, and more detail on what exactly this market rent option is likely to be. It is a very emergent concept in Northern Ireland.”
Councillor Groogan’s deferral proposal did not receive enough support and a DUP proposal to approve the application was passed by the committee.
Council planning officers recommended the plan to elected representatives.
The planning report states: “The proposed scheme is considered to be a suitable site for an apartment scheme, it is accessible and convenient to public transport and walking and cycling infrastructure.
“The proposed development, by reason of its form, scale, layout, design and materials, is in keeping with the site and its surrounding area.”
“There is a park adjacent to the proposal also which is easily accessed. Therefore, on balance, it is considered that there is an appropriate amount of private and private communal space to create a quality residential environment.”