A decision by Derry councillors to refuse planning permission for a new riverfront apartment complex will be appealed next week.
Local planning officers have described the location as ‘possibly the most difficult regeneration site’ in the city.
Clanmil Housing Association has proposed building a four-storey apartment complex comprised of 39 two-bedroom units.
It also includes rooftop amenity space, new access arrangements from Victoria Road, servicing and drop off provision, bin stores, cycle parking and landscaping.
However, the site location 22 metres below road level and sandwiched between the River Foyle and busy main road poses unique challenges.
Clanmil decided that the best course of action was to make it a ‘no parking site’ which also links in with the council’s aim to promote alternative forms of travel.
Exceptions to the parking prohibition would include ‘operational parking’ for bin lorries and emergency services.
In a report council planning officers noted that the primary objections to the development are the parking prohibition.
They also identified the potential adverse impact of congestion on Victoria Road caused by vehicles turning in and out of the site.
Derry City and Strabane councillors believed a parking ban ‘discriminated’ against people with disabilities.
Councillors said ‘no distinction’ should be made between applicants as social housing is allocated on a points-based system.
In a statement to the Derry News this week, a Clanmil spokesperson said: “We have appealed the decision to the Planning Appeals Commission and an informal hearing is scheduled to take place on 9th March 2021.
“Once the appeal process is concluded we will review our position.
“Our hope is that the appeal will be allowed and we can move forward with the regeneration of a long term vacant city centre site, to deliver much needed high quality homes in an area of high housing need.”
At last year’s meeting Hugh Hegarty from the Victoria Park Residents Group said the apartment complex design looked like a ‘horrific brutalist East German style eyesore’.
Mr Hegarty said pollution and parking problems would be exacerbated if residents were to park on Spencer Road and Duke Street.
A lack of space in the area has already resulted in ‘hazardous parking’ on Victoria Road and he envisaged problems at the site with numerous couriers and taxis arriving.
In response, a representative for Clanmil said it is a ‘highly accessible’ location with bus stops and train travel nearby.
The agent also contended that the design respects the history of the site, the city’s shirt factory heritage and complements existing buildings.
At the time, the Council’s planning department recommended that committee members approve the application with an officer saying it was ‘entirely compliant’.
Planning officers believe it would reinvigorate riverfront land and put an end to anti-social behaviour at the site.
Photo: The derelict site sits next to Bassett's Bathrooms along the River Foyle/Victoria Road.
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