Planning permission for the Jubilee Crown should not have been sought until an Equality Impact Assessment (EIA) was carried out, says an MLA.
The comments, by East Antrim Sinn Fein MLA Oliver McMullan, came as Mid and East Antrim Borough Council revealed that the EIA into the Circular Road structure will begin early next year.
Last week, the Times revealed that permanent planning permission for the structure had been granted. However, the council has highlighted that a final decision on whether to retain the sculpture has yet to be taken.
The crown was put in place without planning permission shortly before the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee in June 2012. Temporary planning permission was then gained retrospectively, but was due to lapse on December 1 this year.
The recent application for permanent planning permission, lodged by Mid and East Antrim Borough Council, was passed by a majority at the latest planning committee meeting.
However, Mr McMullan has told the Times that he believes the decision to go for planning permission should have been “held back” until the EIA was carried out.
“They are going through the back door for it,” he stated.
“I am disappointed in the council and I don’t think this will turn out the right way.”
The EIA, which isnot linked with the planning application, is due to be carried out by the council’s cross-party Equality Working Group. While the group has no decision-making powers, it will send its recommendations to the Policy & Resources Committee.
DUP Alderman Gregg McKeen maintained this week: “The EIA is a completely separate subject. If we had waited until it was completed then planning permission for the crown would have expired. Now we have time and breathing space to consider the EIA.”
When asked why the EIA had not been completed before planning permission was sought, a council spokesperson stated: “Planning permission was sought to ensure that Council was not in breach of planning regulations and is not reflective of a final Council decision whether or not to retain the Crown sculpture.
“An EIA is a tool which is used to assess the impact of any policy decision on the wider community. This will include consideration of research, consultation on the impact of the policy and a report presented to Council for consideration, where all facts will be taken into consideration before a final decision is made.
“The EIA will commence in early 2016 and should take 6-12 months.”