Residents express ‘halting site’ fears over helipad camp

LIMAVADY Road residents have objected to the conversion of a former Army helipad into a camp site because they think it will be turned into a Traveller halting site after Londonderry UK City of Culture 2013.

Tuesday, 12th February 2013, 4:06 pm

“There is an underlying fear that the facility may become a halting site for the Travelling Community with some residents suspecting that the planned development was a precursor to the site becoming a halting site after the City of Culture year,” a report, authored by the City Engineers Department reads.

The revelation is made in a Derry City Council report on engagement with Limavady Road and Browning Drive residents on the proposed facility that could be up and running in time for Fleadh Cheoil na hÉireann this summer.

Last autumn the Sentinel revealed that the former British Army helipad used to airlift soldiers in and out of Londonderry during the Troubles was to be used as a campsite for revellers and musicians during the Fleadh.

In August 2012 Derry City Council applied for planning permission for the proposed new £250k camp and caravan park that will provide 32 plots for both touring caravans and campervans of which 14 plots can be used for tents.

An additional 1000 square metre grass area could also be used to cater for up to 20 additional tents if it was considered appropriate.

But after the plan became public residents of Limavady Road and Browning Drive rallied to oppose it. In November 367 signed a petition objecting to the proposal.

There followed moves towards greater public engagement and up to 1,200 households were invited to a public information session in December.

Now the report on the engagement has revealed that some residents are worried Travellers may use the site after 2013 and some suggested the campsite should be moved to Ballyarnett instead.

“In addressing these concerns, it was highlighted to residents that Council no longer has a stautory duty to provide such accommodation needs and that management arrangements need to proactively consider issues such as anti-social behaviour or inappropriate use of the site,” the report states.

Other key concerns raised by residents included the lack of consultation prior to development proposals being lodged with the planners; difficulty in seeing the need for or economic benefit of the facility; the lack of precedence for a ‘city centre’ campervan facility; and increased traffic congestion - an ongoing concern in the area.

Some residents also argued that the original grant of land to Derry City Council included a covenant that it must be used for ‘recreational purposes.’

But according to the new DCC report Council lawyers reviewed the deeds for the lands in question and in particular the Vesting Order made in 1939.

“Council’s legal department confirms that the Vesting Order does make reference to the Council seeking a Vesting Order to provide ‘recreation ground, public park and playing fields.’

“It is advised that in the operative part of the Order, the Ministry of Home Affairs vests the land in the Council in fee simple and without encumbrances or covenants restricting the use which Council may make of the land.”

However, some residents dispute this interpretation and have referred to a possible legal challenge.

The report ends: “In conclusion there is a need for Council to consider and balance the immediate City of Culture accommodation needs and demonstrate a lasting legacy for the city and tourists beyond 2013 against residents concerns elicited from the engagement process.”