Council to debate Queen’s Parade limbo

Artist's impression of Queen's parade vision

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PLANNED legislation that has left Bangor’s £50m Queen’s Parade revamp in limbo is set to be debated by Ards and
North Down Council this month. As the Spectator exclusively revealed two months ago, the huge redevelopment of the
centre of Bangor has been held up by the doomsday flood fears of Stormont civil servants. Officials are worried that the revamp would be at risk of becoming partly flooded if a lake three miles away from Bangor seafront burst its banks – something that, if it happened, would mean that thousands of homes in heavily residential parts of the town would be underwater before any of the floods touched Queen’s Parade. But the civil servants are still nervous about signing off on the £50m project, pointing to concerns flagged up during computer testing carried out in line with a reservoir safety act that hasn’t yet become law in Northern Ireland. Stormont’s Department for Infrastructure is currently running a consultation on that proposed reservoir safety act, however, and has asked Ards
and North Down Council for its views on the possible advantages, disadvantages and effects of the new law. The council has now resolved to take the issue to one of its committee meetings this week, with politicians pointing out that the legislation is already causing severe delays for the enormous regeneration scheme, even though it is still
only on the cards and has not yet been enacted by Stormont. As councillor Alistair Cathcart said at a recent meeting of the full council: “The failure of the Secretary of State in relation to the reservoirs act is hindering redevelopment with serious consequences in our borough.” The deadline for commenting on the consultation is January 23; the council is due to discuss the legislation at its Planning Committee meeting on January 18, but as that’s close to the deadline the committee is being given the authority to issue a response on behalf of the entire
council. Said alderman Stephen McIlveen: “Given the impact this has had on numerous planning applications throughout the borough, [including] some multi millionpound applications that this council is very aware of, it’s very important that we deal with this quickly and get this legislation on the books.” Councillor Philip Smith stated that some parts of the legislation need to be ‘firmly pondered’ by the council, adding that he looked forward to ‘the council giving its fulsome response’ to the consultation. The Queen’s Parade hold-up is due to a major hurdle from
the Department forInfrastructure’s Rivers section, which has to sign off on major schemes such as the £50m revamp. DfI Rivers say that part of the development along Southwell Road – planned site of car parking and ground floor apartments – would be at risk of flooding if a privately owned reservoir on the western outskirts of Bangor bursts its banks. That refers to Clandeboye Lake, located in the sprawling grounds of the Clandeboye Estate – meaning that for civil servants’ fears to come true, so much water would have to spill in a flash flood that much of Kilcooley, Bangor West and the town centre would be partially underwater before Queen’s Parade is hit.
There’s no suggestion that there are any issues with Clandeboye Lake, not least as
the Estate is widely known to be a very responsible landowner; nonetheless, DfI Rivers say that they won’t approve the project until they can get proof that the reservoir would not pose any danger to Queen’s Parade. Officials are following the rules of the reservoir safety act; but as that act has not yet been voted into law, owners of reservoirs on private property don’t have to follow it, and Stormont doesn’t have any authority to demand repairs to
private reservoirs. The upshot is that even though the council granted the Queen’s Parade scheme planning permission almost a year ago, developers Bangor Marine are stuck waiting for the verdict of DfI Rivers. Should the civil servants decide that the risks are too great and Clandeboye Lake needs to be seriously upgraded, without the reservoir act in place no one in any government body has the power to make that happen – potentially threatening to scupper the whole Queen’s Parade revamp.