Islandmagee residents raise concern over potential loss of hundreds of trees
A group of residents campaigning for the retention of forest in Islandmagee outside Larne have spoken of their “disappointment at the lack of engagement”from Mid and East Antrim councillors during consideration of an application for a new primary school in Islandmagee.
The residents are concerned that clearance of a wooded site to make way for the new primary school at Kilcairn, Low Road, could result in the loss of hundreds of conifer and spruce trees.
A new building for a 145-pupil school for Islandmagee Primary was given the go-ahead at a meeting of the council’s Planning Committee last month.
A statement issued on behalf of the group said: “We became fully involved in the public consultation process which took place in September 2020. We submitted our concerns and questions firstly to the developers and later to the Mid and East Antrim Council planners.
“The Planning Committee meeting was our opportunity to have our questions and concerns acknowledged and responded to.
“We made reasonable suggestions which we felt would only improve the safety, facilities and environment for the school, its pupils and the local community.
“Planners chose not to acknowledge, address or debate any of the points we raised (with the exception of the extended acoustic fence). Examples of the conditions were keeping more trees on site and the installation of solar panels.
“We fully understand how important this new school is for the children of Islandmagee. We feel that this development could co-exist in harmony with nature. In fact keeping a small percentage of the existing forest would put Islandmagee Primary School in a desirable position to become a ‘Forest School’.
“We feel this is a very poor outcome in terms of public consultation and public engagement. We deserved to be listened to and acknowledged. It is very disappointing that both statutory bodies and political representatives appeared to view this site as of insignificant environmental value.
“Destroying this small forest, so-called vacant land as described by Planning, will have a significant detrimental effect which cannot be compensated for by the approved plans.”
A spokesperson for Mid and East Antrim Borough Council said: “Following representation at Council’s Planning Committee and elected members’ debate, members voted to approve the application with a condition added requiring an acoustic fence to be extended in the interests of residential amenity.
“Council is satisfied that no-one was prejudiced in the decision-making process. Local residents were afforded an opportunity to participate in the decision-making process, both through written representations and in person at the Planning Committee, and all relevant material considerations were carefully considered prior to the decision being reached to approve the application.”
by Michelle Weir, Local Democracy Reporter