Ludicrous

“If Queen’s Parade is such a flood risk then why have we, a group representing Bangor town centre businesses, never been warned about it?” That’s the question being asked by Bangor Chamber of Commerce this week as the body spoke out on continuing delays with the longawaited £50m revamp. The chamber doesn’t usually get involved with individual planning applications, no matter how big, but wanted to go public in this case due to the critical importance of the Queen’s Parade project to the future of Bangor. Said chamber president Geoff Thompson: “On the face of it, the Department for Infrastructure’s stance not only jeopardises this scheme, but also would mean that this stretch of Bangor’s seafront can never be redeveloped. “That is not only ludicrous, it would be disastrous for the town.” Mr Thompson says the chamber was delighted when Ards and North Down Council granted Queen’s Parade planning permission in January of last year, believing that the move heralded a new dawn for Bangor after decades of disappointment. But instead the project has been in limbo, stuck on pause since mid-February 2021 when the Department for Infrastructure (DfI) put it on hold to analyse flooding fears flagged up by civil servants. That was supposed to be a temporary measure, but a full year later Infrastructure Minister Nichola Mallon says she and her officials are still mulling the situation over. “We understand that had the council’s approval been supported by the DfI at the start of last year, there would now be diggers on site,” said Mr Thompson. “Instead, we have been waiting over a year for the DFI to decide whether to support or deny the planning permission the council granted.” Civil servants used computer modelling to predict that a corner of the Queen’s Parade revamp could be hit if a reservoir on a sprawling private estate located three miles away from the seafront should ever burst its banks. But several thousand people who live between the Clandeboye Estate and Bangor seafront would have their homes washed away before any floods reached the £50m development – a genuinely apocalyptic scenario for the town. Said Mr Thompson: “A risk to Queen’s Parade, a town centre site, is of course a risk to many other businesses in the town. “If this is such a risk then why have we, a group representing town centre businesses, never been warned of it? “Council planners determined that the economic, social and environmental benefits of a £50m investment in our town outweighed any risk. It is hard to argue against that logic.” Adding that the revamp is ‘critical to Bangor’s future’, Mr Thompson said: “Infrastructure Minister Nichola Mallon has the power to return the planning application to Ards and North Down Borough Council and allow it to grant permission to the developers, Bangor Marine. “We are calling on the minister to act now. Every day that passes costs our town dearly.”