Unipork decision was ‘dealt with entirely appropriately

THE HEAD of the Council is confident the decision to grant planning permission to the Lakelands Retail and Leisure Park in Enniskillen was taken appropriately, and believes the current ‘holding order’ on the plans are “a matter of formality.”
Last week there were cries from the local public of anti-democratic interference by the Department of Infrastructure after it served what is known as a ‘holding order’ on the Council preventing members from signing off on the planning permission for the development at the old Unipork site until it had conducted a review.
There has been strong support from the Fermanagh public for the plans, which include a cinema, bowling alley, drive-through coffee, and retail giant The Range.
Two weeks ago the Council’s planning committee overruled the planning officers’ recommendations and voted six-five in favour of the application. This caused outrage among many in the local business community, who are concerned the development on the Cornagrade Road could take trade away from the town centre.
In the latest development, a letter delivered to the Council’s full monthly meeting on Monday night, the Department stated “your council may not grant planning permission for the above mentioned development until further advised the Department.”
“The Department has decided to issue this direction to allow it time to consider whether or not the proposed development raises issues that require the application to be referred to it for further consideration and determination,” it said.
Following questions from Cllr Robert Irvine on Monday evening, Council chief executive Alison McCullagh said it was not the first time the Council had been served with such a holding order by the Department.
Referring to a “slightly different” application for a mixed retail develop in Omagh which the Council had granted permission for, Ms McCullagh said “it was similar in that the Council couldn’t proceed to issue the decision until the Department had considered the matter.”
Ms McCullagh said, as far as she was aware, a total of 25 such orders had been issued to all 11 councils in recent years.
“This is not a suggestion that they will chose to determine the application themselves,” Ms McCullagh said. “Obviously the Department could have chosen to call this in at any time previously.
“I’m reading this as just a matter of formality from them now to consider the Council’s decision and then if there are any implications for the Department.”
She added: “What I would say is, this application received very detailed consideration by the planning committee. It was the subject of a pre-determination hearing, two full committee meetings, and I would think very extensive both legal and other representations in the course of those deliberations.
“I would be satisfied from a Council perspective that it has certainly been dealt with entirely appropriately. The Council has taken a decision and we now await the Department’s direction as to how to proceed.”

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