The planning application for 34 apartments on the site of a former bar and restaurant at Rodger’s Quay was refused by Mid and East Antrim Borough Council’s Planning Committee in June 2021 despite a recommendation by planners for approval.
Twenty-four objections to the £6m proposal on the site of The Swift were received. The premises ceased operation in 2019. The planning proposal involves demolition of the building and redevelopment of the site comprising 34 apartments within three four storey buildings on land to the north of the Premier Inn Hotel.
A report by Planning Appeals Commissioner Laura Roddy said the main issues considered were impact on the Carrickfergus Conservation Area (CCA), whether it would “provide a quality residential environment”, access arrangements, parking provision and impact on tourism.
The commissioner’s report notes the site lies within the town centre and maritime area. The site is also in the Carrickfergus Conservation Area and within Carrickfergus Urban Waterfront on a “development opportunity site”. The former pub and restaurant is located opposite Carrickfergus Castle.
The report stated the “council considered that the existing building on the appeal site does not make a positive material contribution to the character and appearance of the Carrickfergus Conservation Area”.
It continued: “The character of the proposed development would not be sympathetic to that of the CCA and that the design draws no reference from the surrounding historical context. Issues were also raised with the scale, massing and style of the appeal proposal, which the council consider would be out of keeping with its setting.”
Concerns were also raised in respect of views on approach from Marine Highway and from the castle. The report indicated the appellant considered that “more weight should be given to the views of HED (Historic Environment Division) rather than the council’s conservation officer, as it is the relevant statutory authority”.
It was also noted the appellant considers that development in the marina area has “moved on” since the adoption of the Carrickfergus Conservation Area.
“The appellant argued that the height is key and the height has been physically tested against the Carrickfergus Castle, with HED confirming that the castle will not be negatively impacted on,” the report stated.
The commissioner said: “Overall, I find that the proposed development, due to a combination of its height, design, materials and detailing would not respect or be sympathetic to the built form in the CCA. The appeal proposal would also not conform with guidance, particularly in relation to the height, roof and materials.
“Concerns were also raised regarding views into the site and within the site, views along Marine Highway, views of the castle from around Premier Inn and views towards the maritime area from Market Place.
“I consider the view from Market Place to be an important view from the CCA. From Market Place, the appeal site is visible and the appeal proposal, due to its scale and bulk, would be prominent and incongruous from this location
“I judge that the proposal fails to maintain or enhance the distinctive character and appearance of the CCA and it does not draw on the positive aspects of the character and appearance of the surrounding area.
“Even taking into account the more modern residential development adjacent, the appeal proposal through the choice of design, materials, the flat roof and the overall scale, massing and appearance of the buildings would not respect its surrounding context.”
The commissioner noted the appeal proposal includes provision for 39 parking spaces. “The council consider that 57 parking spaces are required, whereas the appellant pointed to a requirement for 34 parking spaces,” she commented.
“I find the provision of 39 parking spaces would be adequate for the proposed development. I am reinforced in this view by the lack of objection from the Department of Infrastructure (DfI) Roads.
“No persuasive evidence has been submitted to demonstrate that the appeal proposal would result in any adverse impact on tourism, water based activities or the filming potential in the area.
“I consider the redevelopment of the appeal site offers an opportunity to enhance the character and appearance of the CCA. However, due to the height, scale, massing, materials and flat roof design, I find the appeal proposal would not enhance the character or appearance of the Carrickfergus Conservation Area. It also fails to protect views from Market Place.
“The second reason for refusal, insofar as it relates to the parking provision and traffic concerns, and other third party concerns are not sustained. Although the building is currently vacant and boarded up, I am not persuaded that the removal of the building of itself, without an acceptable redevelopment proposal, would preserve or enhance the character and appearance of the CCA,” the commissioner added.
Commenting on the decision of the Planning Appeals commission at a meeting of Mid and East Antrim Borough Council”s Planning Committee on Thursday, Larne Lough DUP Alderman Paul Reid said: “It just shows that this committee gets it right.”
Michelle Weir, Local Democracy Reporter