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  • Writer's pictureMichelle Weir (Local Democracy Reporter)

Councillors angered after DfI “have cheek” to tell them what to do over MEA cemetery

Alderman Audrey Wales

Mid and East Antrim councillors have reacted angrily to a letter from the Department for Infrastructure over a recent decision by the planning committee to approve an application for a new Larne cemetery without prior notification.

A letter to the council said:

“It is the Department’s view that it would be appropriate to notify the Department in relation to the application by the council for the construction of a municipal cemetery.”

The committee was reminded that the Department does have “the right to intervene”.

However, the correspondence was blasted by former planning committee chair, Ballymena councillor Alderman Audrey Wales who described it as “an insult to the members of this planning committee that they can’t make a proper decision. I think it is disgusting.”

Larne Lough Alliance Councillor Robert Logan stated:

“It is obviously political interference in the planning decision.

“This planning committee has always worked on a cross-party basis and we like to pride ourselves on this in spite of the fact, in the council chamber, we disagree on many things but on planning we are all agreed that we do our planning duties to the best of our ability and without any political side to it whatsoever. I also am irritated by this call-in by another name.”

Planning permission for a new £2.1m cemetery in Larne was approved by meeting of Mid and East Antrim Borough Council’s planning committee last month.

The new 15-acre site consists of two fields, opposite 382 Old Glenarm Road on the right side of the road towards Ballygally. It is expected to be able to facilitate almost 4,000 plots with capacity for 25 years.

It is anticipated that there will be 180 burials annually with a maximum of three per day and a “gap of 90 minutes between funerals”.

McGarel Cemetery also at Old Glenarm Road, is already at capacity and Greenland Cemetery in Craigyhill will reach capacity in nine years.

The new cemetery will include a memorial garden, 140 parking spaces, public toilets including a Changing Places facility for disabled users, a staff building with access to the site by a new right-hand turning lane at Old Glenarm Road. A bus stop is included in plans.

A decision on the application had been deferred in March to allow for a site visit to take place.

The council’s head of planning Paul Duffy told the meeting that the cemetery is being developed as a “long-term strategy”, noting a “general shortage of burial capacity in the area”. He added that “an over-riding need has been demonstrated”.

He reported five objections to the proposal.

At Thursday’s meeting (9 June), Larne Lough DUP councillor Alderman Paul Reid said he was “absolutely not happy to note” further correspondence regarding an application for Cloghan Point outside Carrickfergus.

“This is bizarre. We have not even made a decision yet on Cloghan Point and the Department then have the cheek to tell us how to improve. In the next breath they are telling us before you make a determination, it is subject to them.

“If they want to make the decision for Cloghan Point, then let them get on with it but don’t bring the reputation of Mid and East Antrim planning committee into something that they want to play silly games over.”

Ald Wales continued: “As far as I am concerned, I think we should gift wrap all the information we have on Cloghan Point and deliver it to DfI and tell them, there is an early Christmas present. Get on with it.”

A proposal is currently being considered by Mid and East Antrim Council for the redevelopment of the existing terminal between Whitehead and Carrickfergus, to an import, storage and distribution facility, incorporating petrol, gas oil and diesel and the demolition of existing buildings and chimney stack.

The Cookstown-based LCC Group which owns the Go fuel company, bought the terminal from AES Kilroot in a multi-million pound deal in 2017.

A letter to Mid and East Antrim Borough Council from DfI states:

“It is the Department’s view that it would be appropriate for Mid and East Antrim to notify the Department when it reaches a recommendation in relation to the application by Cloghan Point Holdings Ltd for the redevelopment of the existing terminal to an import storage and distribution facility.”


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