Beach house to be demolished despite more than 60 objections


Neighbour told sun porch is ‘non-habitable space’ so blocking light allowed


By Iain Gray


THIS house overlooking Bangor’s Ballyholme Beach is to be knocked down – despite the idea racking up more than 60 objections from locals.

Having stood over the beauty spot beach for around 70 years, the building is to be demolished to make way for a new development.

That’s even though the owner of a neighbouring property pleaded in person for the plans to be stopped, stating that the development will wind up blocking light in a room she uses for sewing, reading and writing.

At last week’s meeting of Ards and North Down Council’s Planning Committee, officials accepted that the development will impact on neighbour Muriel Ryan’s home.

But they said that the light loss would all be in parts of her house that aren’t classed as ‘habitable spaces’, such as hallways and a porch.

Although Mrs Ryan described the porch as a sun room, stating ‘a sun room is nothing without sun’, officials were adamant that planning legislation is clear on the matter.

Said Mrs Ryan: “My sun porch is very much a space I use and enjoy, and should be considered a habitable room in planning terms.

“It is a warm, bright, peaceful haven where I read, write, do crosswords and sew.

“It is my living space and an integral part of my home, and has always been used in this way.

“It is sunny and warm because of the west-facing windows that capture the sun from early afternoon through to evening. This is what is so appealing to me.

“The location of the proposed new dwelling will place [the porch] in the shade for a very significant part of the day and will unacceptably reduce the amount of amenity value of my home.”

Some objectors to the new development, which is to comprise a two-storey building with an additional basement level, complained that it would be much closer to the beach than the existing house.

Although there have been modifications to the design since plans were first filed, Mrs Ryan argued that the position of the building would cause it to block light and lose privacy in her home of more than 45 years.

Planners agreed that there will be an impact on her home, but concluded that it wouldn’t be severe enough to warrant blocking the development.

The house is in a draft area of townscape character that’s supposed to protect the look and density of housing around Ballyholme Beach.

But planners stated that the house dates back to the 1950s while most other nearby properties were built 20 to 30 years earlier than that, so it’s already an outlier and wouldn’t qualify for townscape character protections.

Arguing in favour of the development, planning consultant Andy Stephens stated that the existing building ‘makes no material contributions to the character of the area’, adding that it being set back from the beach is ‘an anomaly’ compared to other homes built close to Ballyholme Esplanade.

He also reinforced that under current guidelines bathrooms, storerooms, hallways, garages and ‘circulation areas’ are all classed as non-habitable spaces, and so their windows shouldn’t be tested for light loss.

Mr Stephens went on to suggest that Mrs Ryan is asking politicians on the Planning Committee to ‘stray into setting a very dangerous precedent’ by factoring her sun porch into their decision.

“This could be a significant stumbling block for all future developments in Ards and North Down,” he said, “in that all of sudden any window would have to be considered in any development irrespective of whether it’s a secondary window to a non-habitable room.

“A porch is not classified as a habitable space. I appreciate that Mrs Ryan uses it, but planning policy and planning guidance is there to allow planning officers to make consistent decisions on applications.”

Councillors unanimously agreed to grant planning approval, with alderman Alan Graham commenting that although he took the concerns of neighbours on board, he couldn’t see any way the committee could turn the development down.