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Local cllrs set to meet planners on site worries

Excavation works spark residents’ concerns

Eilish Gibson, who lives next door to the building site, pictured with her son Stephen Eilish Gibson, who lives next door to the building site, pictured with her son Stephen
By Francesca Ryan

LOCAL politicians are meeting with the Planning Service this week to discuss residents’ fears over a new housing development in the Upper Springfield.

One local woman told the Andersonstown News she’s  barely been able to sleep or eat since construction work began next to her home in Dermott Hill Gardens four weeks ago. She says she’s been left shocked after a large hole was scooped from hilly ground yards from her home.

The development, which will see nine apartments built on the site, was passed by planners four years ago despite residents’ objections, however the development was shelved during the property slump. But it started again recently with no prior notice given to locals.

“We only found out this was happening when diggers rolled into the street four weeks ago,” said Eilish Gibson. “They’re building apartments on the Old Whiterock Road but it’s right beside my house here in Dermott Hill Gardens.  I had  access to this land for 37 years and now they’ve moved in and done this.

“I don’t feel safe here for the first time in 37 years because they’ve dug up the ground next to my house and there is now a really big drop and it feels really unsafe. To be honest, I’m frightened my house will fall into it. How can they just invade my life like this?”

Eilish’s son Stephen is equally concerned.

“I can’t believe they can just come in and start working here with no notice given to anyone,” he said. “I grew up in this house and I used to play there when I was a kid because it was safe – but now look at it.”

Local Sinn Féin councillors Janice Austin and Stevie Corr are set to ask planners why residents were given no notice that work was to recommence at the site.

“We will be focusing on process,” Janice told the Andersonstown News.  “The residents should have been notified that this work was going to start but they weren’t and neither were political or community representatives. The lack of consultation with locals is just not acceptable and we will be making that clear in our meeting.”

SDLP councillor Tim Attwood has been in touch with a number of agencies about Mrs Gibson’s concerns over her home.

“It is clear that Mrs Gibson has significant concerns about the construction of the apartments and potential damage to her home,” he said.  “The SDLP have been in contact with DoE Planning and Building Control in Belfast City Council who have visited the site.”

A spokeswoman for the Planning Service confirmed a  meeting was planned with political representatives but said there have been no breaches of process.

“DOE Planning received a planning application in January 2007 for the erection of nine apartments and associated car parking,” she said. “The apartment development was to be built in two blocks.

“Whilst the planning approval was granted in 2009, the developer had five years to start the development. In terms of due process, once a development does start there is no duty on the Planning Department to inform residents or local representatives.

“An enforcement investigation has been opened in respect of this complaint and planning officials immediately visited the site. Two subsequent visits have established that no breach of planning control has taken place. Planning officials will re-visit the site if further complaints are received.”

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