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Residents await ‘vital’ planning document for Malone

By Staff Reporter

A major design guide that will be launched this week has been labelled the “most important planning document in South Belfast in 15 years” with residents hoping it will boost their campaign to protect the “residential amenity” of the local area.

Members of the South Belfast Residents’ Group were speaking ahead of the publication of the Malone Conservation Area Design Guide this Friday (December 16) at Lisburn Road Library by the Department of the Environment.

The launch, which will see an updated character appraisal and design guide for the location, follows a public consultation earlier this year into the conservation area, which was established in August 2000 to protect the landscape and character of the area marked by the Lisburn Road to Wellington Park in the north and Balmoral Avenue in the south.

Ray McAreavey of the Marlborough Park Residents’ Association said most locals believed Friday would see “a mish-mash” of pro-resident and pro-developer guidelines revealed.

“This is probably the most important planning document we have seen in South Belfast for 15 years because if it doesn’t go the way of the residents, it could start the ball rolling for over-development here.

“The Malone Conservation Area still needs properly protected because if it is not, South Belfast will go the way of Dublin and lose most of its Georgian houses.

“It’s not a ‘not in my backyard’ thing – we are talking about the diversity of the architecture, the layouts and the historical significance of buildings. They will all disappear if residential amenity is not protected in this document.”

Evelyn Mullally of the Lower Malone Residents’ Association said that while residents there were pleased the design guide was being launched, it was too late for many local areas.

“We’ve waited a long time for this – a draft character appraisal was first published in 2004. In spite of that, we have lost a lot of the historical and residential character of South Belfast over the eleven years since the conservation area was first declared.

“Our hope is that the Planning Service will now take conservation issues seriously and reject any application that undermines residential amenity. But our concern is planners will still be able to grant any planning permission they choose and they will still not be accountable to anyone for any consent they give.

“We are still pressing the politicians to bring in third party appeal. The design guide is a welcome step forward, but there is still much progress to be made.”

A spokesperson for the DOE said the department would not be releasing any information about the design guide before the launch on Friday.

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