A planning application that was recommended for approval by councillors for £2.7M improvements to Ramore Head Recreational Grounds in Portrush is being brought back before the Planning Committee following a complaint from an objector who was unable to address the committee for 30 seconds.
Despite Causeway Coast and Glens Council being on their summer recess, the objector will get the opportunity to address the committee on the council’s Ramore Head improvements, at a special sitting of the Committee on Monday, July 5 and not at the first scheduled meeting after the summer break on August 25.
The Northern Ireland Planning Portal shows an addendum attached to the application which states: ‘Mr David Alexander had registered to speak in objection to the application when presented at the Planning Committee meeting on 23 June 2021. However, as his microphone was muted, he was unable to do so.
‘The Planning Committee meeting on 05 July 2021 is scheduled to allow Mr Alexander to speak in objection to the application.’
The portal also shows SDLP MLA Cara Hunter has withdrawn her letter of support for the application and changed it to a letter of objection as the ‘scheme does not reflect the wishes of the local community and inadequate consultation was carried out with them.’
Mr Alexander was one of five registered speakers listed by Committee Chair Alderman Joan Baird to speak in objection to the application.
Mr Murray Bell and Jesse Gordon spoke first, however, with 30 seconds of speaking time remaining the Chair moved matters on as it appeared no other speakers came forward.
Mr Alexander said: “I was unable to unmute myself as the administrator had only approved two of the five registered speakers.
“I rang the Planning Department as the application was still proceeding and they told me to put my complaint in writing which I did during the meeting and I copied it to the Chief Executive.
“I rang Councillors Hillis and Fielding and Councillor Baird the next morning and I also requested the matter be deferred to the next scheduled planning meeting. ”
Despite councillors voting 14 to 1 in favour of the recommendation to approve, the application cannot progress as the complaint from Mr Alexander was lodged before the end of the committee meeting with the status of the application in the Planning Portal now reading – ‘Pre Decision Resolution of Issues’.
When contacted, a statement from a council spokesperson said: “A special Planning Committee has been called to hear from a speaker registered to speak in opposition to planning application LA01/2020/1051/F.
“The speaker was unable to address the Planning Committee at the meeting held on 23 June 2021 due to their microphone being muted.
“The subject application is subject to a funding timeframe. To hold bringing this application to Committee until the next Planning Committee meeting to be held on 25 August 2021 may put the funding at risk should permission be forthcoming. Who the applicant is did not form part of this consideration.
“This case is not comparable to a previous application that was brought back to the Planning Committee for consideration due to a number of reasons including the need to consult with a statutory consultee on the issues raised in the previous case.”
The Local Democracy Reporting Service asked the council what the cost to the ratepayer of bringing this application back to a special planning meeting would be and also if the issue with the microphone was the fault of the speaker or the Chamber, however, the statement did not address those questions.