Planners do u-turn on social housing scheme for resort

Planners do u-turn on social housing scheme for resort

28 November 2012

THE Planning Service has withdrawn a recommendation to approve a controversial social housing scheme in Newcastle.

Planners were due to confirm at Monday night’s meeting of Down Council that they had approved an application by Oaklee Housing to build 15 apartments and a house at Donard Street in the resort.

But the approval recommendation for the former South Eastern Regional College site was withdrawn before the meeting got underway.

The Planning Service decision has been welcomed by councillors Carmel O’Boyle and Patrick Clarke who along with their Newcastle colleagues intended to oppose the approval recommendation on Monday night.

In addition to politicians being opposed to the Oaklee scheme, local residents are also unhappy with the application, arguing the Donard Street location is “unsuitable” for social housing.

Four letters of objection and three petitions containing the names of 174 local people have been lodged with planners opposing the proposed social housing scheme.

South Down MP Margaret Ritchie and Environment Minister Alex Attwood were both asked to have Oaklee’s application removed from the planning schedule by councillor O’Boyle.

She said elected representatives and residents should not have gone to such extremes in order to secure what she described as “proper consultation on one of the most controversial planning applications ever submitted for Newcastle.”

Councillor O’Boyle continued: “In spite of widespread opposition to this application, the Planning Service had the temerity to place this on the council agenda as an approval. Whatever happens on this site, it will have a longer journey to go than the one proposed by Oaklee.

“We are all entitled to proper, transparent and informed consultation on this application and there are too many unanswered questions about how this application could ever be approved.”

Councillor O’Boyle said these include traffic and access, the proximity of public houses to the proposed homes which she said would overlook existing properties. She said she can’t see a solution to these issues.

Councillor Clarke said the Oaklee proposal faces “widespread public opposition” from not just politicians, but residents and members of the Newcastle business community.

He continued: “There needs to be further consultation and public debate with the key stakeholders and local residents regarding Donard Street which has been earmarked for social housing. In my opinion, this is the wrong location to build social housing.”

At Monday night’s council meeting a senior planner agreed to organise a meeting between local politicians and concerned residents to discuss the Donard Street planning application.