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'I foresee future headaches' - Concerns over impact large-scale outdoor music events will have on new Ebrington hotel in Derry
1 Jun 2018
CONCERNS have been raised over the potential impact large-scale outdoor music events at Ebrington Square will have on a new hotel at the site. Planning approval was issued earlier this week for a new 152-bedroom hotel, ‘The Ebrington’, a new three -storey building which will be located between two existing listed buildings at the site, which are Building 63 and the Clock Tower building. The development will also see the refurbishment and re-use of the listed buildings to provide a leisure spa, function, meeting room, restaurant and bar facilities at the new hotel. The new hotel, which is expected to be in place by Spring 2020, will create 120 new full and part-time jobs, with a further 150 created during the construction phase and represents and investment of £10m to £12m. The application, which was lodged by Ebrington Holdings Ltd based at the Northland Road in Derry, was discussed at a special meeting of Derry City and Strabane District Council’s Planning Committee, held in the Strabane council offices on Tuesday afternoon. It also emerged at the meeting that approval had been given for a new access for vehicles to the Ebrington site at Limavady Road via a new signalised junction. Speaking at the meeting, Andree McNee, Principal Planning officer with the council, said that the application before the committee had changed ‘significantly’ from the original design which was lodged with council last year in terms of size and design, adding that steps had also been taken in the new design to lessen the impact of the proposal on the listed buildings. She continued that with regards to car parking facilities for the new hotel, The Executive Office had lodged plans for a new surface level car park at the site, which would provide spaces for 256 vehicles and six coaches. The meeting heard planners would be imposing a condition that the car park would have to be in place ‘prior to the hotel being operational’, adding that 150 spaces would be reserved for those using the new hotel. A report presented to the meeting revealed that no objections or support had been lodged against the plans. It added that in November 2017, details of the proposed development were available to view on the Derry City and Strabane District Councils website under the Improve Project. Council received 27 comments in total, 19 of which were positive in that people responded saying they were happy with the proposals, while eight negative responses were received, one of which stated that the design was ‘out of character in Ebrington’. Commenting, the Waterside Sinn Fein councillor Christopher Jackson asked how the new access from the Limavady Road into Ebrington would operate, with Ms McNee replying that it would be a ‘one-way system’. The SDLP’s John Boyle then raised concerns over the impact outdoor events held in the parade ground at Ebrington could have on the new hotel. The parade ground, which is located around 30 yards away from the hotel site, has hosted major music events in recent years such as One Big Weekend event and Club MTV, which have attracted thousands of people. Cllr Boyle asked what ‘mitigation’ had been put in place should future music events be held at the parade ground in relation to noise. “How much consideration was given to this?” he asked. Responding, Maura Fox, Head of Planning with the council, said that a hotel had always been ‘anticipated’ as part of the framework for the development of Ebrington. She added that the current site was ‘not the original location’ for the hotel, as it had been envisaged at the ‘rear of these buildings’. Ms Fox continued that the issue raised by Cllr Boyle would be a ‘management consideration for whoever is managing the site’. Ebrington is currently managed by The Executive Office (TEO), which was previously the Office of the First Minister and Deputy First Minister (OFMDFM). The site had been due to be handed over to the local council earlier this year, but that has been delayed. Ms McNee added that council’s Environmental Health department had raised ‘no issues’ but did add that the ‘developer would need to be aware of any dates proposed’ for such events. She added that large scale events at the parade ground ‘could be a good thing’ and lead to people booking rooms at the hotel. Replying, Cllr Boyle said that while he didn’t have a ‘crystal ball’, he could ‘foresee future headaches’ in relation to events so close to the hotel. He added that it was something that may not be ‘easily resolved’, and said that if such events are being planned for the parade ground, consideration would need to be given how that is ‘communicated to a future customer’. Ms Fox continued that other accommodation, such as the City Hotel, was close to the annual St Patrick’s Day parade, that council had also approved a boutique hotel close to Guildhall Square. Cllr Boyle also raised questions over the exterior design of the building in relation to the brick work, adding that one of the ‘difficulties’ facing councillors with such applications was that they were ‘looking at artist’s impressions’ of the development. His party colleague, Gus Hastings proposed that council accept the recommendation to approve, given that it would ‘create new employment’. Meanwhile, the Waterside DUP councillor Hilary McClintock said that she was ‘wholly supportive’ of the application, given that it would ‘animate the rest of the square’. Alderman McClintock also raised the issue of how music events could potentially affect the hotel, adding that it would be matter of choice for those staying there. “People will come to the hotel depending on the event,” she said. “Obviously, there will some events where they choose not to use that hotel, and may want to be re-located elsewhere.” Sinn Fein’s Christopher Jackson said that the new hotel was a ‘key part of the jigsaw’ that made up the development of Ebrington, adding that it was a ‘much better-looking design’ than what had originally been put forward. However, his party colleague, Kieran McGuire said he found it ‘bizarre’ that no objections had been lodged against the hotel. Councillors then voted unanimously to approve the new development. “Can you start tomorrow?” Cllr Hastings commented.
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