Controversial plans to build a caravan park in Portrush can now go ahead, despite dozens of objections from locals.
Planning permission was granted for the caravan park, at the site of the former Craigahulliar quarry, by the planning committee of the Causeway Coast and Glens council.
Opposition to the plans centred on road safety and land ownership concerns. The applicant, Blair’s Caravans Ltd, say the development is worth £2 million to the local economy.
Councillors were divided on whether to grant approval at a planning committee meeting held on Wednesday (June 24). A majority of councillors voted in favour of granting planning permission, meaning the developers can now proceed.
The application was brought by Blair’s Caravans Ltd and was submitted in 2013. Before reaching their decision, councillors heard from Christopher Dickson, who spoke on behalf of the objectors.
Mr Dickson said: “I speak on behalf of a great many residents who live on the road who object to the proposal.
“It is proposed to create a new village at the Craigahulliar road during the summer months which is more than twice the size of the existing number of homes in that area.”
He also outlined concerns that the Craigahulliar road could not accommodate the increased volume of traffic and pointed out that visibility is already poor for locals pulling out onto the narrow stretch of road - an issue he said would be made worse by cars towing caravans.
Colin Mayrs spoke on behalf of Blair’s Caravans. He said: “Over 30 full and part time jobs will be created. The new holiday park will put over £2 million into the local economy over the development phase. The council will be aware of the high demand for caravan accommodation - your own sites have already got a waiting list.”
DUP Councillor John Finlay asked Mr Mayrs: “You’ve heard the concerns about the road safety issues - how can you address these concerns?”
Mr Mayrs said: “If you look at our Hilltop site, if you come on a Saturday on a very busy weekend, you don’t think about it as somewhere suffering from traffic congestion. That would be about six times the size of this proposal.”
Councillor Finlay also asked about the potential impact of a nearby refuse site. “Do you not think the site being beside a refuse site, with the smell, that some of your customers might be put off?”
Mr Mayrs responded: “Is that not a commercial consideration for ourselves?”
Another DUP Councillor, Alan Robinson, challenged the architect accompanying Mr Mayrs, David Dalziell of GM Design Associates Ltd, to give an honest assessment of the road safety concerns.
“Given that the main theme from the objectors has been road safety, would you say, hand on heart, that the improvements you intend to make will result in increased road safety? Can you say that, hand on heart?”
Mr Dalziell’s reply was emphatic. “I can”, he said. “What we are proposing to do is going to be a huge improvement.”
Council official Shane Mathers had explained earlier in the meeting that Transport NI had asked for upgrades to the road infrastructure as part of the proposals, which Blair’s Caravans had provided.
Mr Mathers said Transport NI had requested that “road alignment and access requirements are completed before the development starts. We see no issues with these conditions.”
UUP Councillor Sam Cole asked the council planning official: “Land ownership issues have been raised by the objectors. Would the land ownership reflect on the application?”
Mr Mathers replied: “It is up to the developer to address these issues.”
Councillors voted in favour of the proposals by a margin of eight votes to four.