Planning approval given for almost 150 new social housing units in Newtownabbey

Two new social housing proposals approved at a meeting of Antrim and Newtownabbey’s Planning Committee will provide almost 150 new homes in the borough.

A proposed development by Apex Housing Association on the site of the former Newtownabbey Community High School will involve 76 houses and 35 apartments with public open space, children’s play park, landscaping, car parking and access from Rathcoole Drive.

Almost 40 residential properties including wheelchair accessible bungalows, apartments, town houses, detached and semi-detached homes are planned in Monkstown.

Planning officer Kieran O’Connell told the meeting on Monday evening that the apartments in the former application are “almost a standalone development”.

An artist’s impression of what the new scheme in Rathcoole will look like.

He commented that the overall design, lay-out and appearance were considered “acceptable” and noted that the development includes a “large area of open space”, a play park and “satisfactory” car parking.

Representing Apex, Sam McKee said that he “very much welcomed the recommendation for approval” describing the proposed development as a “locally significant social housing scheme”.

He went on to say that it would “go a long way to alleviate need for social housing in the Rathcoole area”.

“It is to address need right across the tenant profile,” he added.

A report to councillors indicated that the development proposal is located in an area of housing need within Rathcoole and Rushpark Housing Needs Assessment Areas.

In September 2021, there were 419 applicants on the housing stress waiting list for these areas with single households (222) and families with children (101)  followed by older persons (69).

Antrim DUP Alderman John Smyth asked if there has been engagement with NI Water to come to a solution on waste water treatment.

He was advised that agreement still has to be reached with NI Water.

Threemilewater Alliance Ald Tom Campbell proposed that the recommendation to approve be accepted. His proposal was seconded by Ballyclare DUP Councillor Jeannie Archibald-Brown and agreed unanimously.

Meanwhile, the proposed development between Monkstown Road and Doagh Road will be comprised of 14 semi-detached houses, 11 town houses, three detached bungalows, one detached house and eight apartments.

Councillors were told that there were 15 letters of objection to the plan highlighting concerns relating to over-development, the properties being “out of character with the area”, impact on road safety and wildlife and flood risk.

It was also suggested that the “proposed community benefit would not benefit the while community”.

The applicant’s representative Michael Graham told the meeting that the site was a “wholly sustainable location” that would “respect the local architectural character”.

He stated that the social housing would be of “substantial community benefit” and that additional community benefit would be a lighting re-fit to “enhance existing council facilities”.

He went on to say that overall, it will “deliver a high quality residential development and significant community benefit will result”.

Antrim and Newtownabbey Mayor Cllr Billy Webb MBE asked about the community benefit.

He was informed that it would involve a complete LED lighting refit of Monkstown Pavilion, Monkstown Jubilee Centre and Jubilee Gardens.

Cllr Webb queried the ability of Whitehouse Pumping Station to deal with the increased capacity. He commented that when there were other similar development proposals in the area, councillors had been told that there was “not the capacity”.

A planning officer indicated that the applicant had engaged with NI Water for a “viable solution” for sewerage in this case. In respect of the previous application, he reported that development will be restricted until agreement has been reached with NI Water.

Ald Smyth commented that the proposed development “looks very crammed”.

Cllr Webb moved that the application be refused on the grounds of loss of open space which would impact on the local area and impact on the road infrastructure.  This was seconded by Threemilewater Ulster Unionist Cllr Ald Frazer Agnew MBE but defeated by eight votes against.

The application was subsequently approved by eight votes in favour and two against.

In a statement after the meeting, Planning Committee chair Cllr Sam Flanagan, a DUP representative, welcomed both developments saying: “I am absolutely delighted that permission has been granted for these large social housing projects within the borough. These developments will assist in addressing the social housing deficit and provide homes for those most in need.”

Michelle Weir, Local Democracy Reporter

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