There’s been an angry reaction at plans to open a new amusement arcade in Derry’s city centre.
A debt advice group which receives council funding has slammed a decision by Derry City Council to give its backing to the arcade.
It comes after a raft of objections was made to council against the granting of an application for an amusement arcade at 38 William Street, which would also house a café.
Those were heard at a special meeting of council’s Environmental Services (Licensing) Committee on Thursday afternoon, where both the objectors and the applicants, Fortuna Enterprises Ltd., of Pennyburn Industrial Estate, were present.
Addressing the meeting, Hugh Hegarty, a trader in the William Street area, and who is also the chairman of the City Centre Initiative (CCI), said there were concerns that a new amusement arcade would have a negative impact in area which is already affected by social deprivation.
He added that within the immediate area of the proposed new arcade, there was already an existing amusement arcade, and that, coupled with the surrounding bars and betting shops, meant that there was already a substantial amount of coin-operated gaming machines.
At this point in the meeting, the DUP’s Gary Middleton asked Mr Hegarty if the CCI had made an objection to the application, to which he replied that they had not, reiterating that he was there in a personal capacity as a local trader.
Seamus McLaughlin, of McLaughlin’s Hardware, added that his objection was based on the grounds that improvements had been made to William Street, and the amusement arcade would be ‘counter-productive’ and ‘detrimental to the area’.
The meeting also heard from Bronagh McMonagle of the Dove House Community Trust, who agreed that to approve the application would be counter-productive for council, as they provide an annual subsidy to an advice service run by Dove House which provides support to people struggling with debt.
A solicitor acting on behalf of the applicant then asked for an adjournment of the meeting due to what he described as their late notification, but was refused as councillors felt this would ‘set a precedent’ and the fact that notification had been issued six days prior.
The meeting was then adjourned while councillors discussed the matter in private.
Proceedings then resumed, and the meeting was told that the application was recommended for approval.
The Derry News has learned that the matter was passed after five votes were registered in favour and four were registered against the application.
The following councillors voted for the approval of the application: Thomas Conway (SDLP), Jimmy Carr (SDLP), Maurice Devenney (DUP), Gary Middleton (DUP) and Mary Hamilton (UUP).
The following councillors voted against the application: Tony Hassan (Sinn Fein), Colly Kelly (Sinn Fein), Michael Cooper (Sinn Fein) and Jim Clifford (SDLP).
The SDLP’s Anne Donnelly abstained from the vote.
Speaking to the Derry News after the meeting, Ms McGonagle expressed her disappointment at the move and said that they were now going to appeal the decision.
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