Northern Ireland news

Luxury housing estate beside Belvoir Park Forest put on hold

Work underway at the bottom of Hampton Park in Belfast. Picture by Hugh Russell.

A CONTROVERSIAL plan for a new luxury housing estate beside Belvoir Park Forest has been put on hold by Belfast City Council to work out issues over path connections at Lagan Meadows.

A plan for 18 top grade detached houses to be built on a green space beside Hampton Park, Galwally was deferred at a meeting of the council's Planning Committee on January 18, for assurances by the applicant, D and J Enterprises, that the development would not negatively affect connectivity around one of Belfast's most popular areas of outstanding natural beauty.

The plan has received 410 objections, as well as opposition from two councillors and an MLA. A planned development for 35 dwellings on a large portion of the site previously received permission but was not pursued.

Complaints include the lack of notification to residents, the potential for the proposal to detrimentally affect biodiversity and plans to develop the waterways, that it will block potential pathways along the southern bank of the River Lagan, and reduce access to the river.

Objectors say the proposed development will ruin views from the towpath, and negatively affect parking in Hampton Park, and it will affect the water table, increasing flood risk. Questions have also been raised regarding the proportion of affordable housing within the proposed development.

Despite this council officers recommended the application.

Teresa Degenhardt, an objector, told the Planning Committee “a small village” could be built by developers close to the Lagan, with a total of 53 new houses planned for the area with other “connected” developments.

She said: “We need to rewild nature, not build more luxury houses.”

She added: “I ask you to object to this plan and ask for a revision of other developments limiting the number of houses they can develop in light of the promises made in relation to the blue and green infrastructure, and the time passed since the first approval for the site.

“Let's not forget why you are elected – you are elected to protect the public good, and not somebody's pocket. We can change things, those houses are not yet built – the green land, the flora, the fauna, the badgers are still there. Please vote for the public good, vote that this area becomes effectively protected.”

SDLP councillor Donal Lyons told the committee: “The exceptionally high number of objections shows the strength of feeling. What is also interesting about those objections is not just the locality, but also a broader range of Belfast has stepped forward to object to this."

Green councillor Aine Groogan said: “I am uncomfortable with this application, I am not happy about it, but in terms of planning policies, with the extant permission there, we are very limited in terms of what we can do as a planning committee.”

She proposed to defer the application to legally ascertain if conditions could be placed on the developers to ensure rights of access throughout the site for the general public, if the committee was minded to grant the application.

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