Broadway plan could enliven town centre

A planning application to redevelop a corner site at Broadway in Ballymena has been recommended for approval by planners. (Editorial Image).
A planning application to redevelop a corner site at Broadway in Ballymena has been recommended for approval by planners. (Editorial Image).

A plan to demolish a corner site at Broadway Avenue for a development of retail units and apartments could “bring life” into the town centre.

That was the hope expressed by former Ballymena Mayor and sitting Mid & East Antrim Cllr Audrey Wales at Council’s Planning Committee meeting on Thursday.

The majority of members went on to back her proposal to accept the recommendation of planners and approve the application by Broadway Partnership.

Senior Planning Officer Kyle Patterson had outlined that the application proposed to demolish existing buildings at 1-5 Broughshane Street and 2-10 Broadway Avenue and to construct a 3.5 storey building to comprise retail units with 10 apartments on the upper floors.

The committee also heard that the proposed land uses were considered appropriate for the site and that a similar scheme had been approved for the site in 2010.

While no objections were received from Transport NI, NI Water or Environmental Health and no public objections received, members were told that DoE’s Historic Environment Division had expressed concern over potential impact of the proposed design on listed buildings in the vicinity, including the Northern Bank premises.

Mr Patterson stated, however, that planners considered the physical separation between the buildings would allow the proposed development to co-exist with the existing built fabric of the town centre and recommended approval, subject to attached condition.

Speaking in support of the applicant, a representative of MRL Architects pointed out that the proposal would provide “needed housing” at the upper levels, ensuring 24/7 use which, he said, could help retain life in the town centre.

He said they were aware of the proximity of the listed building and that the design presented “respects the tapestry of Ballymena” in terms of an emphasis on vertical facades.

A senior conservation architect for the Historic Environment Division said that they did not object to the redevelopment of the site but felt the scale and mass of the current proposal to be “slightly overbearing” in relation to the bank.

“It is quite solid and it competes with the bank,” she said.

Proposing the committee accept planners’ recommendation to approve the application, Cllr Wales said: “I am delighted to see this application coming before Council to tidy up a corner which is getting more and more dilapidated.

“I am also delighted to see housing coming in to our town centre which is our objective that we, hopefully, will bring life into our towns in the evening.”

The committee supported her proposal, seconded by Cllr Beth Adger, with eight in favour, one against and one abstention. It will go before full Council for ratification.