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23rd February 2005
Minutes of the Special Meeting of Council held in the Council Chamber, Council Offices, 47 Derry Road, Strabane on Wednesday 23rd February 2005 at 7.30 pm
Present: In the Chair: Councillor J McNulty
Other Members: Councillors: I Barr, A Bell, A Bresland, D Breslin, J Donnell, J Emery, C McGill,
C McHugh, B McNamee,
Total = 10
In Attendance: Chief Building Control Officer, Economic Development Officer, Administrative Assistant, Dr. Chris Boomer, Planning Service
Apologies: Councillors: T McBride, B McMahon,
The Chairman welcomed Members to the meeting and asked them to be mindful of the length of discussions given the current weather conditions. He then invited Dr. Chris Boomer to present his report “Towards a Planning Strategy for West Tyrone” a copy of which had been previously circulated for Members’ attention.
West Tyrone Area Plan 2019
Dr. Boomer advised Members that the purpose of the meeting was to inform Council of the findings from the recent consultation exercise and referred to the content and recommendations outlined in the report. He noted that at a previous West Tyrone Area Plan (WTAP) meeting he had outlined a ‘top down’ approach and felt the current paper reflected a ‘bottom up’ approach.
He referred Members to the responses from the preliminary consultation exercise which commenced in September 2004 and which had now closed. He advised Members that 120 letters had been forwarded to various Government departments, statutory undertakers, local partnerships and representatives inviting them to contribute to the issues paper. He added that to date, 38 responses had been received for the Strabane area.
He reported that members of the public had been consulted on the process through advertisements and added that it was also the intention to consult with disadvantaged groups.
He made reference to the report and felt that Members may feel the content was reflected towards the Omagh district. He noted the rationale included responses from the Omagh district, as there had been little response from the Strabane area to be considered in the report.
He reported that he had invited participation from Strabane District Council (SDC) on the consultation process in conjunction with Omagh District Council (ODC) however, he added that SDC felt they were not in a position to commit at that time. He reported that ODC in association with the Omagh Local Strategic Partnership had liaised with him and various stakeholders in preparation for a brain storming session with local community and business groups where topics were identified to be included in the issues paper. He outlined a number of important issues that had been identified which included: providing a vital and viable rural area; infrastructure; employment; energy and pollution.
He was of the opinion that Council Members in both districts had expressed concern in relation to what they felt could be over stringent planning controls in the rural areas, particularly in relation to rural housing.
He advised Members that investigation of a new link road between Strabane and Lifford was being explored. He noted that the Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety had identified issues in relation to transportation to health facilities.
He made reference to infrastructure in particular proposed water and sewerage works in a number of areas across the district. He advised Members of the current inadequate sewerage system and said that the Environmental Protection Division were opposed to sewerage works which were over capacitated and said they had also proposed an embargo on future development areas.
He noted that the Rivers Agency were responsible for dealing with flood risk and were currently undertaking work to alleviate flooding in the Ballymagorry area.
He outlined to Members a number of potential sites that had been identified for development within the Omagh district.
In relation to heritage and conservation areas, Dr. Boomer advised that the Ulster Society for the Preservation of the Countryside argued that new development must have the least possible detrimental impact on the countryside. He added that the Woodland Trust considered that the plan should offer protection to ancient woodlands and noted that they were compiling information, which should be available for autumn 2006.
He noted that the importance of improving urban design had been identified by a number of bodies, which included the Department of Culture, Arts & Leisure who argued that the importance of good design should be highlighted. He added that the Woodland Trust felt that urban forests should be encouraged and buffer planting promoted.
He reported that the Department of Social Development (DSD) felt there was a need to consider the provision of industrial land in smaller settlements and referred to the potential projects and land use identified by various development associations.
He advised Members that tourism had a major contribution in the economy. He made reference to the Ulster American Folk Park where the possibility of a National Museum for Emigration was being considered.
In relation to energy, Dr Boomer advised Members on the proposed improvements/upgrades on various power and sub stations throughout the province. He noted that ODC considered there should be a presumption in favour of wind farm development and he felt that other sources should also be explored.
He made reference to a number of measures illustrated by ODC, which may be used to reduce pollution risk. He advised Members that the Environmental Protection Division and the National Radiological Protection Board had identified that radon was a risk factor in parts of West Tyrone and included an area directly north of Strabane. He noted that radon was a radioactive gas, which occurred naturally from decomposing uranium and added that there was the possibility that the substance could seep through to foundations of buildings.
He provided Members with a brief outline of the Community Service section of the report.
He advised Members that the Department of Education operated a 5 year programme and said they were unable to identify all projects that were likely to occur throughout the plan period and outlined the list of proposed projects over the next 5 years. He informed Members that an economic appraisal for a replacement of the North West Institute Campus at Strabane was currently being undertaken. He reported that the preferred option was to consolidate on the main Derry Road site and construct a new facility, which would allow for disposal of the Academy boys site.
He informed Members of the changes within the health provision and following the review of the primary community care infrastructure, advised that the Western Health & Social Services Board would inform the Planning Service of any land requirements.
He advised Members that representation from landowners and developers had been made for housing development to be put forward for consideration and referred to these in the report.
To conclude Dr. Boomer felt that the Strabane district had not been adequately promoted from the responses received. He made reference to the approach taken by ODC to include all sections of the community to proactively consider matters to be included in the issues paper. He hoped that SDC would adopt a similar approach.
The Chairman thanked Dr. Boomer for the comprehensive report, which he had provided to Members. He noted his disappointment on the lack of response from various agencies within the Strabane area to contribute to the issues paper.
Councillor McGill thanked Dr. Boomer for the comprehensive report and presentation to Members. In response to a query, Dr. Boomer advised that a response had been received from the Equality Commission for Northern Ireland and they did not have any comments they wished to be included in the issues paper. However he added that he was still awaiting a response from DSD.
In response to a further query, Dr. Boomer advised that the first stage of the consultation process had closed on 17th December 2004, however he added that when the issues paper was released there would be a further opportunity for interested parties to contribute to the process.
In response to a further query, Dr. Boomer advised that the current Strabane area plan had expired in 2001 and added that the forthcoming updated plan would not be available until 2009.
Councillor McGill raised the following questions: the level of work undertaken by ODC in compiling a response; Steering Group meetings; personnel responsible for the submission of work at ODC. In response Dr. Boomer advised that the work undertaken by ODC was reflected in the views of its Councillors and noted that a written submission had not been received from SDC. In relation to the Steering Group meetings, he advised that he had attended 3 meetings with the Chief Building Control Officer (CBCO) - SDC, Chief Executive (CE), ODC, and representatives from the Water Service, Environment & Heritage Service, Rivers Agency and Roads Service. He added that the CE at ODC had been responsible for the submission of work in collaboration with the Omagh Local Strategic Partnership and felt this template would be a prime example for the Strabane district to adopt.
Councillor Barr welcomed Dr. Boomer to the meeting. He made reference to the lack of submissions from the Strabane district and said this was disappointing. In response to a query, Dr. Boomer advised that the plan was behind schedule due to a break in the process. He noted that the issues paper proposed for circulation in April 2005 would not be delivered until Summer 2005. However, he added that he would accept a submission from SDC if this was received by May 2005. He felt it was important that SDC involved participation from various groups.
Chief Building Control Officer
The CBCO advised Members that it was the CE’s intention to establish a specialised team, possibly from within the Management Team who could contribute to the response. He added that the aim was to liaise with the community and various groups to obtain their views on the issue. He felt that Strabane had additional rural issues to consider than that of Omagh district and added that Members had a desire to provide further housing development within rural areas.
He said it was the intention that Sion Mills would maintain its separate identity from Strabane and added that it was proposed further development would be kept to the North.
He felt that the Strabane Canal should be identified as a green belt area and that in relation to the flood bank at Park Road, he advised Members that he would obtain a copy of the flood plan from Dr. Boomer and mentioned the need for the Park Road to be upgraded as a flood defence wall to enable development to take place between the Park Road and the A5.
He informed Members that SDC had not provided a response to Dr. Boomer’s request and added that due to unforeseen circumstances, Council were not as advanced as ODC.
Councillor Barr made reference to the Strabane Canal and advised that Council would be lobbying to retain this as a green belt area due to issues such as wildlife and conservation.
He made reference to the public representations received for the Strabane area and briefed Members on the history associated with the lands at Lifford Road**. He added that residents were becoming concerned that there would be little evidence of the current green area if further development was approved. In response to a query, Dr. Boomer advised that it was difficult to analyse all the requests for allocation of land that had been received and noted that there appeared to be a discrepancy with regard to a number of reference numbers within the report. He added that if Members requested to view the submission letters he would facilitate this. In relation to the lands at Lifford Road, he felt there were associated difficulties attached to the land as it was adjacent to the flood plain and had not been granted approval as yet.
Councillor McHugh joined the meeting at this point.
In response to a query, Dr. Boomer felt there was a need to provide an excess of industrial land for the area to facilitate choice and suitability.
Councillor Emery welcomed Dr. Boomer to the meeting and congratulated him on the work he had achieved.
He felt that the allocation of industrial lands was important for the area and said that small businesses must be persuaded to make use of this.
He made reference to the development of wetlands and also noted the potential for play areas to be facilitated in the Strabane town. He felt the idea of a genealogy centre should be investigated as he felt there was a need for this service.
He noted the suggestion from ODC to provide a Tourist Information Centre at Gortin and would argue that Plumbridge should also be included in this initiative.
He felt the issue of landfill sites should be further explored, as this was a concerning matter for the district and noted that the site at Omagh would cease in the near future.
Dr. Boomer welcomed the suggestion of a Tourist Information Centre for the Gortin/Plumbridge area. He said the areas were close to main routes, provided rivers, hills and scenic views etc to cater for all needs.
In response to a question with regard to Sperrin Tourism, Dr. Boomer advised that the letter of invitation had not been forwarded to the group and admitted that there would be a number of agencies that had not been notified, he welcomed the notification of this.
He made reference to the development of land in the Strabane area and felt that land, which had not been developed upon, had associated planning difficulties. He felt the plan should be directed to areas outside of the town, however the question remained which direction development should be extended to, the North or South of the province. He felt it was important that the issues of local residents be considered.
Councillor Barr advised that there had been a limited number of site meetings for housing development within Strabane town for which he felt there was a need. He suspected that undeveloped land had incurred planning problems and said there was little alternative for developers/landowners but to expand to alternative areas.
Councillor Bell made reference to the proposals for an extension at the North West Institute and said it would be a great loss if the academy building was demolished. She felt it would not be appropriate to continue any development to link the Sion Mills and Strabane areas. Dr. Boomer made reference to the North West Institute and advised that currently an economic appraisal was being undertaken and suggested input from Council.
Councillor Bresland queried if the plan had taken into consideration the issue of radon gas. He made reference to the open space between Sion Mills and Strabane and hoped the plan would continue to provide this. Dr. Boomer advised that the conservation area had also been taken into consideration within the plan.
In response to a query Dr. Boomer advised that the by pass for Sion Mills could be facilitated along the old railway track near to the junction of Hamilton’s corner.
Councillor Donnell declared an interest in the public representations section of the report.
Councillor Donnell welcomed Dr. Boomer to the meeting and raised the following queries: farm diversification, e.g. Riddle Bros. planning application for bottled water was refused: old area plan expired 2001, request to retain this information within the new area plan; industry, recreation land and waste transfer station at Strabane to be considered; requested the need for play areas within housing estates; surface water at Ballymagorry - currently no one would accept responsibility; felt there was no provision for water run off for new developments –needs addressed; suggested that sufficient land was provided for road widening work within villages/new developments e.g. Cloughcor and Bready; old mill at Artigarvan, site unable to be developed upon as located outside the planning limit: advised that flood work was now completed at Ballymagorry; requested that housing development was kept to a minimum near to the Strabane Glen area.
In response to the above, Dr. Boomer advised that guidelines in relation to farm diversification were stipulated within the relevant planning documents. He noted the new area plan would not be completed until 2009 and said land that was currently unzoned would only be considered if the applicant proved the site was a necessity for the Strabane area, however he felt this would be difficult to achieve. He made reference to Article 33, which would be required to facilitate the development of a large scale business outside of the old area plan. In relation to industry, recreation and waste transfer sites, he advised that the Planning Department had envisaged undertaking a public consultation to identify potential sites. With regard to play amenities, he advised that a new development must provide the necessary facilities. He said that the Water Service should be notified of concerns with regard to surface water and queried how many of these problems were associated with the developer. He added that the Rivers Agency was responsible for drainage problems and noted that these types of issues must be addressed. He said it was the responsibility of the builder to provide the necessary footpaths for new developments, he agreed that the issue of sufficient land was provided for future road widening works. He commented on the old mill located outside Artigarvan and said this must be outside the permitted development area and said it was disappointing for the project to have lost funding to redevelop the old mill. He said he would provide Members with a map to illustrate the current flood areas within the district. To conclude he said that historic significance was being considered within the plan and would take into consideration the Strabane Glen.
The Economic Development Officer and Councillor Emery left the meeting at this point.
Councillor Breslin raised the following questions: Strabane Glen becoming under pressure of development; felt there was insufficient road infrastructure to deal with demand from the Derry Road, Curly Hill Road and the head of the town area; suggested that the Convent Grammar school had an alternative use that would also prevent development on the land; felt that Sion Mills should keep its separate identify and suggested the need for a by pass which had been requested over 3 years ago; queried which direction development should expand to.
Dr. Boomer said the above comments were very useful. He said that as he was unfamiliar with the infrastructure adjacent to the Strabane Glen he could not comment on the issue. He said the request for a by pass to be facilitated at Sion Mills must be raised so that it would be included on the agenda.
Councillor McHugh raised the following points: provision of recreational areas to the North and East of Castlederg Town Centre; felt Castlederg Town Centre should be extended to the North and noted the housing pressures from the West e.g. Cavan Road; freeing up of land occupied by PSNI/army base, could be used for car parking or recreational use if it became available; unzoned land to be considered for recreational use; felt there was a need for a service road to be facilitated at the back of Main Street and requested that this remain in the current area plan; requested a by pass to be facilitated at Clady to solve main street congestion; he made reference to the Mullanabreen Road at Aghyaran and queried if all approvals and refusals were taken into consideration could a primary school be facilitated to establish a hamlet area; requested the need for development limit to be extended at Aghalougher Road, Killeter and Castlederg - eastwards at the Strabane Road.
In response Dr. Boomer advised that development within the Castlederg area was growing at a phenomenal rate and noted that the next paper would be requesting allocation of housing and queried how this would be allocated throughout the district. He noted that the request for allocation of recreational land was at the GAA grounds and further along the river and these issues could be considered in the issues paper. He said that the provision of a service road to the rear of Main Street would remain within the current area plan. He noted the query re Mullanabreen Road and suggested these types of areas could be classified as disperse*** rural areas.
In response to a query from Councillor McGill, Dr. Boomer advised that the developer must provide adequate footpaths to cater for the needs of the development.
In response to a query from Councillor Breslin, Dr. Boomer advised that requests for comments were forwarded to the MLA’s for the area as they were all networked through the Councils.
The Chairman thanked Dr. Boomer for the presentation and question and answer session for Members.
Any Other Business
Meeting with Taxi Officials and Councillors
The Chairman advised Members that the above meeting would be held on Monday 7th March 2005 at 2.00pm at the Council Offices.
Apologies were received from Councillors McGill, McHugh and Breslin.
The meeting concluded at 9.30 p.m.
DATED this 23rd day of FEBRUARY 2005
Chief Building Control Officer
DATED this 8th day of MARCH 2005
Chairman of the Council
The following does not form part of the Minutes recorded above but is included hereon in the interests of clarity:
At a meeting of Strabane District Council held on the day of 8 March 2005 the Minutes of the above Meeting were adopted as a true record on the proposal of Councillor Breslin, seconded by Councillor Emery, subject to the following amendment:-
* Insert ‘Councillor D Hussey’
** Delete ‘Lifford Road’ and Insert ‘Laurel Drive’
*** Delete ‘disperse’ and Insert ‘dispersed’