Fight begins to overturn ruling on 24-hour station

Fight begins to overturn ruling on 24-hour station

10 April 2019

APPEALS will be made today to overturn a planners’ recommendation to refuse permission for a an unmanned petrol station adjacent to the Ballymote shopping centre on the outskirts of Downpatrick.

The recommendation to refuse the application for the 24-hour station will be discussed at a meeting of Newry, Mourne and Down Council’s Planning Committee.

Nicholl Fuel Oils is seeking permission to build the filling station — a proposal which has split public opinion — at this part of the town.

Residents who live close to the proposed development site are concerned that the station poses a potential fire risk and argue it would have a “negative impact” on their lives and a “detrimental impact” on a similar business just one mile away.

Those in support of the proposal, including a number of businesses based at the shopping centre, the Ballymote Community Project and the Model Farm Community Association, believe the filling station would be good for the area, insisting that in addition to creating employment, it would provide a much-needed service for the area.

The case to overturn the planners’ recommendation will be made at today’s meeting by representatives from GM Design Associates and the Ballymote Centre Project Ltd.

In papers released ahead of the meeting, the design associates argue that the 24-hour filling station would not “adversely effect” the amenity of adjacent residents and that no issues have been identified by environmental health issues in relation to lighting, noise and order. 

They will also contend that the proposed development will “deter” anti-social behaviour at this part of Downpatrick and that the proposed development area adjacent to the Ballymote shopping centre has not been zoned for any specific purpose. 

The agents will insist that the benefits of the proposed garage would “decisively outweigh” the loss of open space, arguing there is an abundance of existing open space and proposed amenity space. They say the land earmarked for the filling station is of little amenity value.

Representatives from the Ballymote Community Project say there are currently over 150 permanent jobs at the site of the shopping centre which is home to a number of businesses and community organisations.

Describing the location as “hub” for surrounding housing estates and the wider Lecale peninsula, they say the shopping centre was hugely successful but had become a victim of its own success. The Community Project says free and accessible parking was part of the success story, but was well over capacity, arguing that the closure of petrol station located a short distance away at St Patrick’s Avenue meant motorists from Lecale had to “battle” through Downpatrick to access other filling stations.

“Local community support is solid for this proposal,” the Community Project states in its proposal.

”Initial opposition was based on the fear of anti-social behaviour. Additional CCTV on the canopy will actually discourage such behaviour.”

The Ballymote Community Project owns the proposed development site and claims that in over two decades, the land had never been used for amenity or play, with “huge support” for additional parking and the much anticipated filling station.

The group says the proposal “completes the carefully planned range of services at Ballymote and protects this unique community business from larger external supermarket interests buying land locally and trying to compete”.

Sean Kennedy of Nicholl Fuel Oils, he states in his submission that the retail fuel market in Northern Ireland is rapidly moving to unmanned sites. 

He said the proposed Ballymote development will help the company grow its unmanned network and bring a “new and necessary service to the local community”. Mr Kennedy said the proposed filling station will also safeguard the future of the Ballymote Centre and the jobs it already provides.