Protect one of Ireland's last ancient woodlands from encroaching apartment blocks
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***Despite over 5,000 people signing the petition, 6 councillors on Newry, Mourne and Down Council's Planning Committee voted to approve this "inner-city" style high-density residential development. We have been unsuccessful in challenging the approval at the High Court but are now calling on Council Chief Executive Liam Hannaway to exercise his power under Section 68 of the Northern Ireland Planning Act and revoke the planning approval.
This would allow the developer to hold a public consultation and adhere to due process by assessing the potential traffic and environmental impacts of the proposed development. If you would like to lend Rostrevor Oakwood your voice, please consider our suggestion to copy, paste, amend with your own thoughts and send this letter to the addresses below�
Dear Mr Hannaway and Councillors,
I am writing to make a formal request that, under the power granted by Section 68 of the Planning Act (Northern Ireland) 2011, you revoke the approval made by six councillors on Newry, Mourne and Down Council's Planning Committee for the Shore Road development P/2009/1336/F in Rostrevor.
It is my concern that, despite the Judicial Review decision on this case, the plans as they stand could have detrimental consequences on the following:
1) The safety of motorists, cyclists and pedestrians on a busy and dangerous stretch of the A2 protected road.
Reason: no transport assessment was carried out for the approved plans, despite one being called for by DfI Roads Service.
2) The long-term preservation of Rostrevor Oakwood, which is designated as a Nature Reserve, Area of Special Scientific Interest and Special Area of Conservation.
Reason: no environmental impact assessment, updated bat survey or Habitat Assessment, called for by NIEA, were carried out for the approved plans.
3) The integrity and future functioning of the Council's planning department.
Reason: a key strategic aim for transferring planning powers to Council level was to promote a participatory planning system. No Public consultation was carried out for the approved plans. Furthermore, your Planning Department have conceded they attached an unenforceable planning condition to the approval notice, thus failing the six tests for planning conditions.
Please confirm receipt of this email and advise on what course of action you propose to take to address this matter.
Rostrevor Oakwood, located on the lower slopes of the Mourne Mountains, is an ancient woodland covering an area of 41 acres and protected under EU law as a Special Area of Conservation. Situated a stone’s throw from the well-known Kilbroney Park in Rostrevor, and within a Cloughmore’s (“The Big Stone”) throw from the stunning glacial inlet of Carlingford Lough and the Cooley Mountains on the opposite shore, it served as the inspiration for CS Lewis mythical land of Narnia.
Newry, Mourne and Down Council have approved a planning application for the development of 41 two- and three-bedroom apartments, a 70-bed nursing home, an underground car park and associated infrastructure on a 1.05-hectare site within metres of the woodland’s edge. We are asking for your support in signing this petition to object to this now approved development for the following reasons:
- The Council’s own planning officer has recommended refusal in four separate reports and each time highlighted the great extent to which this planning application is clearly and indisputably contrary to multiple provisions of the Planning and Policy Statements (PPS). *See bottom of page for full details.
- The developer has not conducted a full Transport Assessment. This is particularly worrying given the development site’s proximity to the busy A2 Shore Road, part of which collapsed during storms in 2014 and required extensive repairs costing £382,000. Given the increased frequency of extreme weather events, evidenced by the recent storm Ophelia, road safety must be taken under consideration when a decision is made on this planning application.
- A tree survey and report submitted by the developer omitted any reference to oak trees bordering the site. If disturbance to ancient woodland is to take place then it is vital that the ecology of the woodland is well documented and understood before the disturbance takes place.
- The developer has not conducted a full piling assessment, meaning no consideration has been given to understanding the impact of piling or ground excavation work on the woodland.
- The Woodland Trust’s expert recommendation to protect the woodland habitat by creating a 50-meter buffer zone between the woodland's edge and the development site has been completely disregarded by the developer.
- A scoping bat survey submitted by the developer was conducted using methods involving surveying during daytime hours, when standard practice advocates surveying during evening/night hours to establish bat presence. Bats are protected species and are protected by the full weight of UK and European law.
- The proposed development is contrary to Newry, Mourne and Down Council’s Tourism Strategy. The proposal in this planning application rather than representing an enhancement of the attractiveness of Rostrevor would significantly reduce the amenity value of the area and thus reduce its tourist and visitor potential. There are a number of examples of such economically and environmentally detrimental development on the north Antrim coast which are comparable and instructive. Inappropriate development of apartments more suited to an urban, high density setting has resulted in the creation of an environment which is unsuitable for and unattractive to families and where apartments are only sporadically occupied. The loss of visual amenity and character has resulted in reduced numbers of visitors and a lower level of economic activity.
- Newry, Mourne and Down Council’s handling of this planning application has raised considerable concerns. The Council’s Planning Committee originally approved planning permission for this application in May 2017, providing no valid planning reasons for their decision to disregard the advice of their Planning Officer to refuse the application. In September 2017, the Council made the unprecedented decision to overturn their own Planning Committee’s decision to approve the application and rescind planning permission. This decision was made when preliminary Judicial Review proceedings were initiated against the Council, which highlighted a number of procedural flaws in the decision-making process.
A decision has now been made to approve this planning application so please show your support and sign this petition to object to the development of what Newry, Mourne and Down Council’s Planning Officer stated “would more properly be found within an inner city location”, not on a site where the Mountains of Mourne actually do sweep down to the sea.
For more information please visit: https://www.facebook.com/RARE-Rostrevor-Action-Respecting-the-Environment-303834406659032/
*Newry, Mourne and Down Council Planning Officer’s reasons for recommending refusal:
- The proposed development is contrary to Policy QD 1 of Planning Policy Statement 7 (PPS 7) criteria (a), (c), and (g), in that: the applicant has failed to demonstrate that the proposal would create a quality residential development; adequate provision has not been made for private open space and landscaped areas as an integral part of the development; and, the design of the development does not draw upon the best local traditions of form, material and detailing.
- The proposed development is contrary to Policy LC1 of the Addendum to Planning Policy Statement 7 on Safeguarding the Character of Residential Areas, criteria (a) and (b) in that; The proposed density is significantly higher than that found in the established residential area; and, The proposed pattern of development is not in keeping with the overall character and environmental quality of the established residential area.
- The proposed development is contrary to the Strategic Planning Policy Statement and Planning Control Principle 2 of PPS 12, in that the proposed density of the development, together with its form, scale, massing and layout does not respect local character and environmental quality
- The proposed development is contrary to Policy NH 6 of Planning Policy Statement 2 (PPS 2) in that the design, size and scale is not appropriate to the special character of the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty in general and of the 10 particular locality and does not respect local architectural styles and patterns, local materials or design.
- The proposal is contrary to Policy DES2 of the Planning Strategy for Rural Northern Ireland in that the development would, if permitted, be detrimental to the townscape of Rostrevor and would not be sensitive to the character of the area surrounding the site with regard to design, scale and use of materials.
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