Northern Ireland news

Orange Order critical of 'Sectarian Street'

Planners have given the green light for new homes at Clifton Street in north Belfast
Connla Young

The Orange Order has claimed members based at a north Belfast interface were not consulted about plans to build homes in a nearby nationalist area.

Planners at Belfast City Council gave the proposed development at Carrick Hill in north Belfast the green light last month.

Six apartments and four houses will now be built by Choice Housing Ireland just yards from Belfast Orange Hall at Clifton Street.

The properties will be the first homes to be built fronting the nationalist section of Clifton Street, which has been a parades flashpoint since 2012.

A similar housing plan for the Clifton Street site was previously submitted but withdrawn in 2014.

Questions were raised after it emerged that former DUP housing minister Nelson McCausland met housing association representatives at Clifton Street orange hall weeks before the plan was withdrawn.

He and party colleagues North Belfast MP Nigel Dodds and councillor Brian Kingston are believed to have attended the meeting with officials from the now defunct Oaklee Homes.

It later emerged that plans to build on the site were scrapped because of a directive by the DUP-run Department for Social Development in documents produced in 2013 that any developments fronting Clifton Street should be non-residential.

A new application to build on the site, at the junction of Stanhope Street and Clifton Street, was submitted last March by Choice Housing Ireland.

Planning documents show that there were no objections to the plan, which was given the green light last month.

In a statement the Orange Order yesterday said it is requesting a meeting with Choice Housing and accused it of failing to consult with members of the Orange hall.

However, Choice Housing said it consulted with Belfast Orange Hall about the proposed development, met with members of the Orange Order and engaged in written correspondence.

The order also said there are “questions to be answered by Belfast City Council relating to the planning process used” which it claims “failed to recognise the sensitivities of this area with regard to cultural expression”.

“How did the planners approve this application in light of the ‘Cultural Corridor’ concept developed by Belfast City Council?” it said.

The order also criticised the Parades Commission, which has placed restrictions on loyal order parades passing through the area in recent years.

“The Parades Commission created the climate where Choice Housing, and planners, think it is acceptable to create a permanent ‘no-go’ area along a main arterial route into Belfast city centre, by consistently and unjustifiably banning supporters of Loyal Order parades from Clifton Street / Donegall Street,” it said.

It said the ban was imposed “even though the Loyal Orders had reached an agreement with the local Roman Catholic Church”.

The order added that its objections do not relate to housing need.

“The Orange Institution’s objections do not relate to the needed housing, but how the siting of housing on this main arterial economic route into the city centre makes a nonsense of the aim of a shared city,” it said.

And it added: "If this development goes ahead Clifton Street should be renamed Sectarian Street."

A spokesman for the Parades Commission said approximately 20 loyal order parade pass along Clifton Street each year.

“Conditions have been placed on these parades in relation to music and supporters, and to ensure compliance with the Commission’s Code of Conduct,” it said.

A spokesman for Belfast City Council said the “application was approved after considering all material planning considerations in full accordance with how planning applications should be processed”.

A spokeswoman for Choice Housing said: “We can confirm in relation to this project that Choice Housing undertook an extensive consultation process, which included consulting with the Belfast Orange Hall on the proposed development.

“An initial community consultation letter was issued in June 2017, which was followed by a meeting with public representatives and members of the Orange Order (August 2017) and we engaged in written correspondence (on the 2nd, 15th and 17th of August 2017). Further correspondence took place in September 2017.”

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