Thousands of campaigners including countless dog owners, are celebrating after the Court of Appeal overturned a council decision to grant planning permission to build for a £45million college inside Craigavon City Park.
Senior judges found the planning permission was "unsustainable in law" and local resident Clare McCann won her case against Armagh, Banbridge and Craigavon Borough Council on four separate grounds.
The council had granted planning for the new Southern Regional College on the edge of the south lake in which six acres would have been swallowed up as a site for a new college campus.
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But determined campaigning, peaceful protests and petitions came to a conclusion on Tuesday when the Northern Ireland Court of Appeal found against the legality of the Southern Regional College planning application. The ruling means the park will remain undisturbed for the thousands who enjoy it every year including countless dogs and their families.
The overturned planning permission would have seen the merger of the Lurgan and Portadown college campuses onto a single campus inside the park.
Opponents had launched a petition urging people to sign and protest against the idea that cres of densely wooded parkland would to be impacted by an 18,200 m2 building and 400 parking spaces.
Protestors feared the development would:
- bring more than 3,000 additional people to the site on a daily basis
- Increase traffic to the site by 48% or 4,800 cars
- jam up the roundabout on the main arterial route to Craigavon Area Hospital.
- Increase congestion and pollution dramatically
- Impact emergency services response times
And in ruling, the senior judges found that the decision to grant planning permission was unsustainable in law as it breached parts of the Habitats Regulations. They said the the decision was "based on the taking into account of inaccurate and incomplete information and the disregard of material relating to the presence of otters on the subject site".
They also found that the council had failed to notify the Department for Infrastructure of the application and that the proposed development was "significantly contrary" to the planning policy. The senior judges also said Mrs McCann was entitled to her costs in the case.
The fight for the park started when Armagh, Banbridge and Craigavon Borough Council sold 13 acres of woodland to Southern Regional College for the creation of a Further Education campus.
Protestors urged that the park and lakes should remain an outstandingly beautiful area in Craigavon, a recreational resource available and accessible to all, free to use and within walking distance of thousands, used by the local community and visitors.
And it took a tribunal ruling to ensure the council handed over the master plan for the development. In 2020 ABC Council was ordered to hand over the South Lake Masterplan by a legal tribunal. The document, had been sought by campaigners acting to save Craigavon Park and Lakes from multi-million pound development plans, but had been withheld despite repeated requests.
After the ruling the lobby group made the announcement of social media, saying: "We won. The Judges ruled in our favour. Our park is safe."
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