A proposal to develop a multi-code sports facility on the massive Clondermot High School site in the Waterside received unanimous approval from Derry City and Strabane District Council’s Planning Committee on Wednesday.
It means the council can now press ahead with its exciting re-development proposals for what, it’s hoped, is fast-becoming the ‘former’ Irish Street and Top of the Hill interface.
A full-size grass pitch for soccer, rugby and gaelic games, a 3G synthetic soccer pitch, tennis courts and synthetic wickets with netting and flood lighting to allow for outdoor cricket practice during the winter, can now be built on the site.
A modern changing pavilion, incorporating six team changing rooms, separate accessible male and female changing rooms and a multi-purpose room to hold community events alongside ancillary staff and support facilities are also set to be developed at the old school.
Members of the planning committee were advised just two objections have been lodged against the plans, both by residents of East Avenue, the location of a proposed access gate.
The residents had raised concerns about increased traffic in the area and people using East Avenue for parking but a case officer told the committee that the gate at the North East of the site will be for emergency vehicle exit and entrance only.
The officer told the committee that one resident had also raised concerns that the new development could become a “flashpoint for anti-social behaviour involving young people from different religious backgrounds”.
But the committee was told that the existing Irish Street Shared Future Centre beside the development site is already being used by people from all communities and is actively bringing people together.
SDLP Councillor Tina Gardiner said that having talked and worked with young people and community groups in the area she believed the city has moved on.
“This is what we need to be doing, developing a facility that will be used by the whole community, and that will encompass all sports,” she said.
Sinn Féin Councillor Patricia Logue agreed.
“Certainly, for me, this is the way forward in terms of developing the site,” she said.
“Contradictory, to some of the objectors’ fears around anti-social behaviour , it will be a facility that will actually enhance community relations.”
She said the development was badly needed in the area.
Speaking after the meeting Sinn Féin Councillor Christopher Jackson said: “This development will undoubtedly build on the great work that is currently ongoing between the communities in Irish Street and Top Of The Hill.
“Plans for the area include a full size Gaelic/Rugby pitch, a full size 3G soccer pitch, tennis courts, cricket rickets, a pavilion that will provide changing facilities ,and will also provide a much needed space to run community programs and events.
“This iconic development will not only strengthen the work of bringing the two communities together it also has the potential to take away an interface by creating a truly shared space where people of all ages and backgrounds will want to come to.”
Also speaking after the green light was given at the committee meeting on Wednesday, Chairman of the Council’s Planning Committee, John Boyle, suggested that once developed, the facilities would be of huge benefit to the local community.
“This is a fantastic development that will provide the local community in Irish Street with top class sporting and recreational facilities on their doorstep,” he said.
“It will encourage participation in sport and activity and promote health and wellbeing in our communities, and is in keeping with the commitments set out in our Community Development/Inclusive Growth Plan for our City and District.”
DUP MLA Gary Middletonalso gave the proposal a big thumbs up.
“I very much welcome the planning approval for the proposals at the former Clondermot site in the Waterside area.
“This marks another step forward in the development of the site and will be welcome news to all involved in this project.
“This fantastic development will provide the local community in Irish Street and the Waterside area with state-of-the-art facilities including a full size multi use pitch, a 3G football pitch, tennis courts and cricket facilities. I look forward to seeing these plans progress to the next stage.”
A design and access statement prepared by the RPS Consultancy accompanying the application explained how the project evolved in response to Derry City and Strabane District Council’s Strategic Outdoor Playing Pitch Development Plan as prioritised by the Waterside Neighbourhood Partnership Board.
But the designers said they were limited in terms of architectural expression by the strict needs of user groups. “The nature of sports facilities limits the scope for innovative design input with the surface geometry and constituent materials generally being dictated by published standards and guidelines.”