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Refusal Overturned

Wednesday, 3 May 2017

Refusal Overturned thumbnail An impression of what the new development will look like

PLANNING permission for a new nursing home and 41 apartment complex has been given the green light at the site of a car showroom in Rostrevor.

Councillors who sit on Newry, Mourne and Down District Council's planning committee overturned a planner's recommendation to refuse the development, arguing that the economic benefits outweigh the environmental arguments.

Car sales business JC Campbell, currently on the Shore Road site at the edge of the village, is set to relocate to the Newry area to pave the way for construction of the nursing home and apartments.

The application came before the planning committee last August when it was first recommended for refusal. At that stage it was agreed to defer the application to allow planning officers to meet with the applicant, for discussion between the applicant and objectors and to facilitate a site visit by committee members.

However, despite an amended application which excluded the sheltered housing communal facilities of 10 apartments, originally proposed beside neighbouring residential properties, the planners still argued the application would be "detrimental to the townscape of Rostrevor".

Chief planning officer Anthony McKay acknowledged that there was "significant change" to the application and that the planners were now dealing with "a reduced scheme" however he said they still "did not consider the level of density of development to be appropriate to this edge of village - a sensitive location.

"We view it as an over-development of the site," Mr McKay told the planners.

Speaking to councillors on behalf of Rostrevor Association Respecting the Environment (RARE), musician Colum Sands, who has lived next door to the site for more than three decades, said the planning department's officer's report was "remarkable in the strength of its recommendation to refuse these proposals on many different grounds".

"We are very concerned that the latest proposed developments have a similar potential to irreparably damage the character of Rostrevor and surrounding local area. We worry that if we do not stand up now and oppose these plans, future generations will blame us for not doing more today.

"The planning department's assessment very clearly recommends refusal of these proposals stating that it will be 'totally inappropriate', causing 'unacceptable damage to the local character, environmental quality and residential amenity in the area'.

"In our view, the planning department's unusually strong objections reflect an incredulity that such a development is even being considered in an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty," Mr Sands told the planning committee.

DUP Councillor Glyn Hanna told Mr Sands that the site will be redeveloped at some time in the future and asked what he thought was an acceptable size of development on the site.

Mr Sands suggested a "50 per cent reduction" adding "an inspired choice for development would be a community centre".

The planning consultant, Richard O'Toole said that the application has "around 30 per cent open space" which was substantially more than the 10 per cent that the policy requires.

Sinn Fein Charlie Casey "sympathised" with the applicant as he said he "tried to avoid solid buildings with their design".

Colin Campbell, the applicant and owner of JC Campbell, said that he was originally given approval for this development two-and-a-half years ago, only for it to be refused.

He told members of the planning committee that the current site "no longer caters for his growing business".

He claims by moving to Newry he would be able to add another franchise to the business, taking the workforce up to 60.

He says 40 jobs would also be created in Rostrevor with the nursing home.

"Please do the maths, we are talking about 100 jobs here," Mr Campbell told the committee.

He said that other car sales businesses in Newry have closed as they "did not move with the times".

He added that he is hoping to move with the times and "leave behind a very tasteful development that will also bring employment to the village of Rostrevor".

SDLP Councillor Mark Murnin proposed that the committee overturns the planner's decision to refuse, stating it would be of "economic benefit" and would "bring traders and add to the vibrant community that already exists there".

DUP Councillor Glyn Hanna seconded the proposal stating that "when you look at the historical context, I think it will blend in quite well".

"I think a nursing home is needed in this South Down area," added Councillor Hanna.

All councillors who could decide on the planning committee - those who were in attendance at the site meeting - agreed to approve the application, with delegated conditions.

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