A director of Ballymena Business Centre has expressed concern over change of use from a premises at Woodside Industrial Estate to a church.
Speaking at a meeting of Mid and East Antrim Antrim Borough Council’s Planning Committee on Thursday, Ballymena Alderman Audrey Wales MBE said that with “100 per cent capacity” for start-up businesses, she was “very loathe to turn any land zoned for economic development into any other use”.
Ald Wales was commenting on a planning application for change of use at a premises at an industrial estate in Ballymena from a martial arts centre to a church.
Also opposed to the application was Alderman Paul Reid, a Larne Lough DUP representative and also a member of the clergy.
Ald Reid quipped: “It is going to be a strange one, a minister of religion voting against this one.”
Ald Reid is Minister of Old Presbyterian Church of Larne and Kilwaughter. He said “I am worried about setting a precedent. It has been zoned for a particular purpose. We need to be very careful. It is contrary to the zone for industrial use. I propose we do not accept the officer’s recommendation.”
The council officer’s recommendation was to approve the application by Mid Antrim Vineyard.
Paul Duffy, the council’s head of planning, told the meeting that an adjacent business had raised concern over the “martial arts centre using up car parking spaces which discouraged people from using his store”.
“He would be afraid the church would have a similar impact, then his customers would find it difficult to call at his premises. If in the event of a fire, there would be conflict with the fire escape.”
Ald Reid commented that every application must be “taken on its own merits”.
Bannside DUP Cllr Tom Gordon asked: “If this is granted would we be creating a precedent? I do not think it does because it has been a martial arts centre which departs from zoned use for industry.”
Mr Duffy noted: “A church is not considered an employment use.”
Larne Lough Alliance Cllr Robert Logan said he appreciated the concern about change of use from industrial to another change of use and continued to propose that the committee accepted the officer’s recommendation.
His proposal was seconded by Braid Ulster Unionist Ald William Cherry MBE. It was approved by nine votes to two.
Michelle Weir, Local Democracy Reporter