A Portadown councillor has expressed his frustration that planning applications that have been with Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon Borough Council’s planning staff for a long time are struggling to make their way to the committee.
Speaking at a meeting of council’s planning and regulatory services committee on Wednesday, September 7, Councillor Darryn Causby commended planning staff for the progress being made driving down the number of applications on the delegated list.
However, the DUP representative also expressed his frustration at a number of applications, specifically referencing one in Gilford concerning a filling station, which are pulled from the committee’s schedule at short notice.
“I appreciate there has been pressure on case loads and we have seem some movement on the delegated list and that is to be welcomed,” said Cllr Causby.
“However, I note there are some applications in the system for a significant amount of time that have been scheduled to come to this committee and have been pulled at short notice.
“I am going to be explicit and name Gilford and the filling station at Gilford and just put on record that I am deeply frustrated we cannot get a resolution to this planning application.
“If additional information comes in it should be appended to a report rather than being withdrawn from a schedule and not being brought into this forum.”
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Stressing that he is neither for or against this particular application, Cllr Causby explained his frustration was with the fact a number of applications are often pulled from the planning committee’s agenda due to the submission of late evidence.
“These decisions are for elected members to decide, we know this application meets the criteria to come here anyway and I would like to see it do so as soon as possible to give closure on the application and take it off the planners’ desk,” he said.
“The sooner we get it back here the better, it has gone on far too long and I am not giving an opinion on the application or expressing one in any way, shape or form, I am not for or against this application.
“I am just simply making the point a number of applications have been delayed due to late information. We have been going long enough now and are experienced enough to make a judgement
“There are several others that are being held up by judicial reviews and I will declare an interest as, having lobbied for Portadown Elim Church, on behalf of their application, that is now in the system far too long but I understand it is being held up by a judicial review that is ongoing.”
Noting he worked on this application during his time as an MLA so would not be taking part in any debate or vote on the application, Alderman Sydney Anderson claimed it had been in the system for “six years now” and told the chamber that should be a sufficient amount to present it to the chamber.
“The people of Gilford want a decision taken on this as soon as possible,” said Alderman Anderson.
“It has been six years now and that amount of time should be sufficient to iron issues out and get it brought to committee. I would like to think we could get it turned around in a lot less time than that.”
Telling the chamber he understood the frustrations expressed, the chair of the committee, Alderman Gareth Wilson reminded everyone the application will be dealt with by the committee in due course.
“It has to be concluded by this committee and members that will be considering it can’t give a view at this stage without giving consideration to other information that is to come in relation to it and that will come in time,” he said.
“I understand the frustrations and appreciate Alderman Anderson will not be taking part in the decision but it is important we respect the operation of the committee and it will come back in due course.
“Hopefully sooner rather than later in terms of the general operations of council and I am content it will come back in time and be dealt with in a full and transparent way.”
Alderman Glenn Barr noted the subject matter being discussed and asked if, given this is a live application, the meeting should be moved into confidential business.
However, the committee chair said he was content with what had been discussed so far but would like to bring the discussion to a close.
“I am content if we don’t talk about it any more,” said Alderman Wilson.
“Cllr Causby has made his point and he has been adamant it is purely from the performance of the committee in terms of time frames so I am content that is a reasonable comment.
“I am also content with Alderman Anderson’s comments as he will not be taking part in discussion of the item and has made his position clear.
“I am less content about the general discussion of the pros and cons at this part of the meeting, particularly as it is a live application and so I would like it not to be spoken about any further as it will be talked about at its appropriate place.”