David Ford said: “Working alongside people in the area, Cllr Alan Lawther, Danny Kinahan MLA and I have consistently opposed the plans for this waste facility. Northern Ireland needs to recycle more waste. There is clearly a lot of building waste that originates in Belfast. “But it is completely illogical to cart large quantities of waste – up to 2,000 tons a day – nearly 20 miles out of the city, to then send up to 80% of it back to the city or the docks.
“There are a number of issues that need to be addressed by the Planning Service. Over twenty years ago, a similar facility was refused permission because there was uncertainty about its effects on ground water. Local farmers, and those who have their own wells, are not satisfied that a proper survey has yet been done.
“Road safety is a crucial issue. There are real fears about allowing so many heavy lorries on the narrow Connor Road. Initially, Roads Service insisted on widening the road, but now seems satisfied with a few passing bays, even though one is on the steepest part of the brae, close to a blind bend. “For small local planning applications, the applicant is required to provide detailed, accurate plans showing sight lines at the entrance to any development. The quality of the drawings provided for this major project was far short of what many individual householders have had to provide for modest domestic schemes. It is also unclear whether the developers control the land required for sight lines, passing bays and sound screening ‘bunds’.
“Similarly, for a development of this scale, we would generally expect to see detailed plans showing the protection of vegetation and additional planting schemes. The file acknowledges that there is a problem with the potential removal of roadside hedges, yet no information on how to remedy this. The Alliance Leader continued: “All these matters were raised by objectors last year, resulting in the Planners withdrawing the two schemes from consultation with the Council in July 2011. As an MLA, I was promised answers to relevant questions. Yet the Planning Service sought to re-introduce the plans to the February Public Services meeting of Antrim Council without doing so.
“Last week, I visited Millennium House in Belfast, to read any additions to the planning file. There were no significant reports showing how the issues raised last year had been addressed. I took this information to a recent public meeting in Parkgate, which expressed continuing unanimous opposition to the proposals.
“Following that meeting, in consultation with Cllr Alan Lawther, I wrote to Alex Attwood MLA, Minister of the Environment, and asked him to withdraw these plans from the Council list, and to ensure that the legitimate questions from people in the area and their representatives were answered. I am grateful that, following my intervention, the Planning Service has again withdrawn the plans.” David Ford concluded:
“I was extremely surprised that these plans were to be brought back to the Council, despite the failure to address the legitimate planning concerns. It is most unfortunate that I had to intervene at Ministerial level to get a proper response.”
The full text of David Ford’s letter is:
16 February 2012
Mr Alex Attwood MLA
Minister of the Environment
re Planning Applications T/2005/0977/F and T/2005/1054/F
I understand that these applications, relating to waste recycling and landfill in Parkgate Quarry, are listed for consideration by Antrim Borough Council on 21 February. You will recall that they have been discussed on a number of occasions, including with you.
At two meetings last year, in conjunction with local residents, accompanied by Danny Kinahan MLA and Cllr Alan Lawther, I put forward a number of objections and concerns regarding these applications, and was given undertakings that the issues raised would be fully addressed. The applications were listed for a Council meeting on 28 July 2011, but withdrawn by Planning Service because questions raised by local representatives had not been addressed.
I had the opportunity to read the case file in Millennium House this morning and to discuss the issue with other public representatives and local people at a well-attended public meeting this evening. I am writing to express my continuing concern at the failure of Planning Service to properly address the issues raised by objectors to the proposals.
The email sent from Special Studies Unit to the Officer who will attend the Antrim Council meeting (dated 02 February 2012 at 14:28) contains a number of inaccuracies, and the paper on file headed “Annex A, Issue Raised by David Ford” clearly demonstrates that serious issues raised by public representatives, including me, have not been addressed either properly or at all. The following are examples:
The email says that the applicant states that either it or the Roads Service is in control of the land required for visibility splays or passing bays, despite the fact that the plans supplied clearly show two of the four passing bays and the northward sight splays of both entrances are outside the blue line. Notes actually indicate that sight lines at the southern entrance are 7 metres outside the blue line. Is it not the case that revised plans, indicating the land required for visibility splays and passing bays should be shown within the red line?
Despite concerns raised, no detailed plans have been supplied to show the visibility splays for the northern entrance, as required by Roads Service in a memo dated 9 September 2011 (point 3). A overall plan showing this area at a scale of 1:2000 is totally inadequate to cover this access in detail. The details submitted do not accurately reflect the existing and proposed ground levels, field boundaries, hedgelines and road verge positions, and do not demonstrate whether third party lands are required.
There are several examples of issues which are to be dealt with either at a later stage (eg as part of the PPC regime for hydrogeological risk assessment) or by negative conditions (eg landscape concerns). The justification stated is that Planning should not duplicate other controls. This seems to be at variance with Planning Service practice when considering quarry developments, or indeed when detailed planting schemes are required for modest domestic developments.
Landscape Architecture Branch specifically requested landscape proposals and management plans on 30 September 2008, but there is no indication that these were ever sought. The file includes an ambiguous response that “Landscape Branch has confirmed they are still content”.
On 25 February 2011, Planning Service informed Roads Service that it opposed the removal of roadside hedges, yet the plans on file do not show how vegetation is to be protected.
The Secretary of Second Donegore Presbyterian Church had been told that clarification of the extent of the bund adjacent to the church grounds would be requested. The note acknowledges that this has not happened. The small-scale diagram on file is totally inadequate to assess the plans, and whether the bund intrudes on church grounds. The notes acknowledge that an area shown within the blue line is actually leased for 999 years to the church, yet states that this is “within the applicant’s control”. It would be helpful to have sight of the Department’s legal opinion in this respect.
On the general issue of the accuracy of drawings, notes state: “The Department has requested Roads Service to check the drawings again for accuracy. Awaiting response.” There are no updated drawings on file, and no indication that these were sought or – fundamentally – that Planning Service staff accepted any responsibility on their part to ascertain the accuracy of the plans.
It is my belief that the issues raised by public representatives, local people and the church have not been properly considered by Planning Service. I repeat a point made previously – that the quality of these applications falls far short of what should be expected of an application of this scale, indeed far short of what is expected for small domestic applications within Ballymena Division.
I therefore respectfully suggest that the reasons which led to the withdrawal of these applications in July 2011 have not been addressed and the Department should therefore withdraw the applications from the schedule for the Council meeting on 21 February.