Council wins High Court battle over Bushfoot barn

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lisa.gregg@thechronicle.uk.com

THE Council has won a High Court battle over it's decision to grant approval for a barn conversion close to the Giant's Causeway World Heritage Site.

The legal challenge was launched after elected members of the planning committee overturned a recommendation by professional planning officers.

Back in February 2018 the committee voted in favour of ignoring planners' advice on the redevelopment scheme in Bushfoot Road, Portballintrae backed by property developer, Seymour Sweeney.

The decision prompted an objector, Mr Stuart Knox to begin judicial review proceedings aimed at compelling the council to follow the original recommendation.

When the application came before the committee, members were told the site fell within the Distinctive Landscape Setting of the Giant's Causeway site.

Inside the 2km zone, development is restricted to replacement dwellings, small extensions and “exceptionally modest scale facilities” which are necessary to meet the direct needs of visitors to the World Heritage Site.

Planners suggested that a single exception was unlikely to harm the landscape but to grant approval could set a dangerous precedent other developers were likely to exploit.

They also insisted there was not enough amenity space adjacent to the site and that ancillary development associated with a dwelling would fail to integrate.

In response to the planners' claims, the applicant suggested the conversion scheme would give the building a new lease of life and approval would result in a positive contribution to the landscape.

Committee members voted 6-3 in favour of approval following an amendment tabled by the DUP's John Finlay on the basis that conversion of the barn was acceptable in principle.

Mr Knox sought to judicially review the decision, claiming the council had failed to provide adequate reasons for giving the go-ahead

Despite dismissing his challenge, the judge indicated the Council could have provided more expansive details.

But Mr Justice McCloskey held there was “sufficient clarity, coherence and intelligibility" behind the decision

He said: “I conclude, by an admittedly narrow margin, that the recorded reasons pass muster in law.”

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