Finlay warns against ‘opening can of worms’

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A councillor has warned that deferring a Planning decision on a Coleraine farm shop could “open a can of worms” for existing retail businesses in a local industrial estate.

Cllr John Finlay was speaking at Tuesday’s meeting of Causeway Coast and Glens Borough Council Planning Committee when an application for retention of Scott’s farm shop, No2 Loughanhill Industrial Estate, came up for discussion.

Planning official Shane Mathers told councillors that a refusal was recommended.

“The principle of developing this land for retail is contrary to both the retailing and economic development, industry and commerce elements of the SPPS,” he said.

“There is no exceptional circumstance as to why this retail use should be located in Loughanhill Industrial Estate which is land zoned for industrial development, and there are no other material considerations that outweigh the Northern Area Plan. Refusal is recommended.”

Cllr Barney Fitzpatrick then asked what the difference was between Scott’s Farm Shop and a business such as Lynas Foodservice which, he said, has a retail unit in the industrial estate as well as their main factory.

Mr Mathers said he was unaware of the retail unit but said he could check to see if that retail unit had planning permission.

Cllr Fitzpatrick then proposed deferring a decision on Scott’s Farm Shop until the information was brought back.

A Council Planning officer told the meeting that the crux of the matter was that any new retail should be in the town centre. She said that the existing retail units may have been granted permission before a change in policy.

Speaking on behalf of the applicant, Mr Chris McKernan said that his client was only asking for “fair play” as the number of existing retail units already operating in the estate presently was “unbelievable”.

Members were told that if they instructed Planners to look into these other retailers then they would automatically have to open enforcement order on the businesses.

Cllr John Finlay said that while he had great sympathy for the applicant, members had to be “careful that we don’t open a blitz of enforcement orders on other retail units”.

“We don’t want other people put out of work. If we open this can of worms then we could have eight, nine, ten people coming here saying that we have demolished their businesses.

“This application should stand or fall on its own merit.”

Members then voted to turn down the application,