Marina developer ‘has a third bite at the cherry’

Following on from the excellent, witty and knowledgeable letter from Sunny Jim concerning the bloomer in the three computer -generated images associated with the Larne Marina Village concept, the other astonishing aspect of this proposal is that Larne Marina Company (LMC) had the gall to take a third bite of the cherry.

The first proposal by LMC for a marina at Larne Promenade, which included not only a 200-berth marina but also 112 apartments, hotel, restaurant, chandlery and realignment of the public promenade, was submitted in a planning application to in December, 1999. The initial cost of the proposal was stated to be £8 million, which was subsequently doubled.

Some 2,200 written objections from members of the public to the proposal were subsequently submitted by Larne Promenade Action Group (LPAG) to the Planning Service.

In a letter dated 15 November, 2007 to LMC, the Department of the Environment gave notice that outline planning permission for the application should in its opinion be refused. The five reasons given were mainly amenity and environmental concerns, particularly the fact that “the development would, if permitted, have an adverse impact within the Waterloo (Area of Special Scientific Interest) ASSI”.

On 9 November, 2007, six days before the date of the above notice, Planning Service received a second application from LMC for an amended proposal (Larne Marina Village No.1) which included a 200-berth marina, 16-bedroom inn, bar, restaurant, coffee shop, two retail units, a landscaped public walkway, 121 dwellings, interpretation centre and foreshore access. It is noticeable that this list did not include a chandlery, a necessity for boat owners.

Furthermore, LMC later stated publicly that the development would cost £42.5 million and that the whole development would be located 80 metres further south so as not to infringe on the nearby ASSI.

In a letter dated 15 May, 2009 from the Planning Service to LMC’s agents, it was stated that the DOE had decided that the application was “deemed refused” because LMC had failed to provide an environmental impact assessment requested by the DOE 18 months earlier, even though LMC had been granted a 12-month extension. LMC have never revealed to the public the reason for this failure.

LPAG have got no further information regarding this third proposal than was revealed in the Larne Times on 26 April, 2012 and await further more detailed information before responding to Mr Bill Liddle’s claims and Cllr Martin Wilson’s acceptance of those claims. However, LPAG are confident that most of the reasons given by the DOE for its opinion to refuse the first planning application apply, not only to the second application but also to the third proposal, especially the reason concerning the ASSI, for the following reason:

At a special council meeting on 16 January, 2012 to consider the Larne Watersports and Marina Feasibility Study which had been commissioned by Larne Borough Council at a cost to the ratepayers of £10,700, with consultants Gordon Clarke and Judith Annett from Consultancy firm URS Scott Wilson in attendance, in reply to a question from councillors as to “why Sandy Bay scores zero for planning and environmental compliance”, Ms Annett said: “It was their understanding that the current position of the project (second planning application) was deemed refused in the planning file due to the environmental impact assessment not having influenced the developer’s re-application. Also, having consulted with NI Environment Agency, they consider the latest (second planning application) still compromised the Waterloo ASSI and therefore they didn’t consider it met planning requirements of environmental compliance as it stood.”

This will be LMC’s third and in my opinion the last attempt to deprive the people of Larne Borough of Larne Promenade as it stands and, if it fails there will be no fourth attempt, the reason being that in two to three years’ time, Larne Borough Council will amalgamate with the councils of Carrickfergus and Ballymena. No way will the Carrickfergus councillors support a marina development for Larne, which would be in competition with their own marina, which lost an average annual amount of £275,000 over the last three years.

Dr R Seymour