Portrush Building Preservation Trust, which is registered with the Charity Commission, has spoken out against the Council’s Plan to convert the former Lifeboat Boathouse at Lansdowne Portrush, a listed building, into a restaurant. The Trust was represented on-line at the Council’s Planning meeting by it’s secretary John McNally.
In his opening remarks John referred to letters from DAERA’s Marine and Fisheries Department regarding the proposed development in which they advised,
“The red line boundary is directly adjacent to the marine environment. With an increasing number of storm events and sea level rise, the proposed development may come under increasing threat from the sea in the future”.
This warning to Council was also mentioned in an earlier letter from Marine and Fisheries in which they state,
“Marine and Fisheries Division has considered the impacts of the proposal and on the basis of the information provided does not consider this to be a viable long-term option at this specific location”.
To further emphasise the need for Council to take into consideration the threat from the sea John referred to a letter sent to Planning by MLA Clair Sugden’s Office in which Marine and Fisheries state,
Section 3.13 of the Strategic Planning Policy states that “The planning system should therefore help to mitigate and adapt to climate change by avoiding development in areas with increased vulnerability to the effects of climate change, particularly areas at significant risk from flooding, landslip and coastal erosion and highly exposed sites at significant risk from impacts of storms”.
John highlighted how the Planning Service had a different opinion on the matter of risk from storm damage. In its report dated 20th March 2020, Planning state that “there is a low risk of wave action breaching the 2 metre existing freeboard”. In its conclusion the Report also states that “The location of the proposed development and Climate Change have been fully assessed and weight has been given to the elevated position of the building”
John referred to the 10th December 2014, when a major storm breached the seaward wooden storm-doors of the building. The sea then destroyed the inside glass doors and water went through the building into the road. He offered to show photographs of the storm damage to the meeting but was not permitted to do so.
Turning to the Council’s Design of the proposed restaurant John remarked that “To an outsider the Architect’s Design is of an attractive restaurant with glass doors & balconies overlooking a calm East Bay. Instead it is a building with glass doors and balconies sitting on one of the most exposed shores in Portrush . Given Council’s own experience of Storm Damage to the building in the last 6 years the Architect’s design could be regarded as a misleading promotion of an investment opportunity. He suggested that at the very least Council should ask for the damage report from the December 2014 storm and consider any potential ramification to its proposed design”.
In conclusion John referred to the vision in the “Lansdowne Master Plan” that had been agreed between the Council and the Community for the Lansdowne Area in Portrush and adopted by Council into it’s Portrush Regeneration Strategy. With regard to this building the Master Plan states,
“the future use of the Lansdowne Lifeboat Shelter would be linked to the use of Portandhu Harbour and complement the historic nature, primary maritime role and design quality of the building”.
John pointed out that the Council’s Architect Design and Access Statement with regard to the Master Plan stated that
” the proposed refurbishment and extension along with the proposed use would fully complement with the Master Plans objectives for the building”.
He regarded this as misleading as a restaurant was most certainly never envisaged in the Master Plan. The Building Preservation Trust asked for, but did not received from Planning, details of how “the Architects proposed development fully compliments the Master Plans objectives for this building”.
John finished by stating,
“This building should belong to the community. Lifeboat men have lost their lives serving from this boathouse. Our Trust submitted proposals to convert it, at no cost to the ratepayers, into a Maritime Heritage & Watersports Centre. A new restaurant has just opened across from this building in the old Coast Guard Offices which will serve the Lansdowne Area”.
Councillors approved the planning application with 11 in favour, 1 against and 1 abstention.