27 JUL 2021
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Approval is recommended for Down GAA centre plans

21 July 2021

Down GAA’s ambitious plans for a multi-million pound centre of participation are to come before the council’s planning committee at the end of the month - with a recommendation for approval from planning officers.

The application, which was first lodged in December 2019, is seeking full planning permission for the redevelopment of the existing training complex to provide a new Down GAA centre at Ballykinler, a village approximately eight miles from Downpatrick.

GAA officials hope that the new centre of excellence will provide a platform for future success at county level for footballers, hurlers and camogs. According to a design and access statement submitted in 2019 with the application, Down GAA has over 25,000 members playing Gaelic Games and participating in GAA activities across the county.

However, they have depended on the good nature of clubs and schools for training facilities.

Ballykinler has previously been described as the ‘ideal venue’ as training and matches can take place virtually every day of the year due to excellent ground conditions, with GAA officials excited by the proposals for the future.

The proposals include four full-size GAA pitches - three of them with floodlights and all with spectator seating. 

The proposal consists of refurbishment and extension of the existing pavilion, 

The proposal also includes the relocation of the existing grass playing field, three new full-size grass floodlit playing fields with associated fencing and dugouts, floodlighting to three of the external playing fields, ticket booth and shop, car parking road works/improvements.

Meanwhile, the pavilion will be extended to the side and rear to provide a reception/lobby and storage area on the ground floor, along with an entirely new first floor providing gym space and changing facilities. 

According to the proposal, there will be 353 car parking spaces (including disabled) and five bus parking spaces.

Objections have been raised by three nearby properties. 

Issues raised by objectors relate mainly to the proposed floodlighting and its impact on their residential properties, noise pollution, traffic, loss of privacy, the potential for increased antisocial behaviour, loss of public right of way and landscaping. 

The council report acknowledges: “There is no doubt that approval of this development will result in a change to the outlook and surroundings of neighbouring properties.”

However, the report goes on to say that following an Environmental Health assessment of the impact the proposal may have on neighbours of the site, it has ‘been concluded that there would be no unacceptable impact on the amenity of people living nearby’ and it is not considered the proposal will ‘adversely impact on the visual amenity or character of the local landscape’. 

The report adds that public safety, particularly in terms of traffic, has been assessed and it has been concluded that it would not be prejudiced. 

Following consultations with several statutory bodies, including DfI Rivers, Environmental Health, DfC Historic Environment Division and DfI Roads, no objections were raised. 

Planners have recommended that councillors approve the application at the July 28 meeting, stating: “On balance and taking into account all the supporting information, consultation responses and objection letters it is concluded that the proposal would not cause demonstrable harm to interests of acknowledged importance and is acceptable to prevailing policy requirements.”

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