Plans to transform a strip of derelict land in Larne into a major waterfront development have been given the thumbs up.
Environment Minister Mark H Durkan approved outline planning consent for residential, leisure and industrial development on the 13-hectare site on Bank Road
If it goes ahead, the scheme could transform the largely redundant Kelly Fuel yard – known locally as Howden’s Quay – into a waterfront housing development, along with a hotel, restaurants and cafes, plus small business units which could be let out to IT companies.
The plan is for around 55 per cent of the site to be used for housing, while 30 per cent is earmarked for new industry and the remainder is to be developed for leisure uses.
The site – which is one of the first things to be seen by visitors arriving into the town along the Shore Road – has historically been used to import coal from mainland UK.
Howden’s fuel depot – owned by Kelly Fuels – currently trades on the site, but occupies only a small fraction of the space covered by the plans.
John Colgan, general manager of Kelly Fuels said Larne had probably been the largest coal-importation point for the entire island of Ireland in its heyday, and the firm intends to erect a statue to mark the site’s industrial past when development gets underway.
However, Mr Colgan revealed there is no timeframe for work at the site to begin.
The proposals which have been granted are only outline plans, and before anything is actually built another, detailed planning application would need to be submitted.
Mr Colgan said: “In the medium-term I think it would be our aspiration to start piecemeal developing the site; because obviously it’s a big development, a huge development in its totality.
“The economics, such as they are at the moment, wouldn’t justify doing the whole thing in one go.”
Minister Durkan said redevelopment of the former industrial site would bring a much needed boost to the local economy.
Mr Durkan added that the long-standing application had posed “particular challenges in dealing with its industrial legacy and in the difficult topography of the site”.
“However,” he said, “this development will create a quality built environment which recognises and helps sustain the internationally important habitats and wildlife of Larne Lough and the wider Antrim Coast.”
The Department received one objection to the Bank Road proposal.