A councillor has borrowed a famous phrase from the Prince of Wales to describe a planned modern apartment block beside two historic bank buildings in the centre of Ballymena as a “carbuncle”.
DUP representative Billy Henry was speaking after Mid & East Antrim Borough Council’s Planning Committee gave the green light for the scheme close to a Danske Bank – a listed building – and a Bank of Ireland.
In 1984 Prince Wales referred to plans for a new building in London and said “what is proposed is like a monstrous carbuncle on the face of a much-loved and elegant friend”.
Now, speaking at a council meeting in Ballymena, Councillor Henry said the new Ballymena apartment building was going to to built near the ‘listed’ Danske Bank and the Bank of Ireland which was not listed.
He added: “But even so they are two old type buildings and this is a brand new one placed right in the midst of it and I do not believe that the visual impact is going to be pleasing”.
The Cullybackey councillor added: “It brings me to a comment made some years ago by Prince Charles and I think this would be very apt on this occasion – it’s like a carbuncle on the face of humanity”.
Planners had recommended approval for the plans.
Despite outlining concerns about the look of the proposed 3.5 storey building at a currently vacant site on the corner of Broughshane Street and Broadway Avenue, Cllr Henry and the rest of the committee unanimously agreed to support the plans for the new block.
The scheme will provide ground floor retail and 27 apartments.
A planning report showed the Department for Communities Historic Environment Division objected to the Ballymena scheme on the grounds of the impact on the listed Danske Bank building and other listed buildings nearby at Church Street.
However, the report said planners were recommending approval for the new building as they took the view the listed buildings would not be adversely affected.
The planning report said: “However, weight should be given to the prominent location of the site at a busy junction within the town centre and the planning gain to be achieved by the re-development of a site which has been vacant for a significant period of time’.
Senior Planning Officer Kyle Patterson told the planning meeting that on balance it was considered there was enough physical separation between the buildings in question.
And he said the diverse character of the town centre allowed the proposed building to co-exist with the existing ‘built fabric’ without adversely affecting the architectural merit of the Danske Bank.
He said the new building was of the type which could be found in the centre of many large provincial towns.
Mr Patterson said the building is a “social housing scheme for category one elderly people”
He said roads officials had raised concerns about an absence of parking at the building but on balance it was accepted that significantly reduced parking was acceptable in town centres and especially were other forms of sustainable transport were accessible.
Mr Patterson said planners also wanted to see residential use in town centres to bring life into such areas in the evenings.
Ballymena Ulster Unionist councillor Stephen Nicholl said there was big demand for such homes in the town centre.
Ballymena DUP councillor Audrey Wales also welcomed the new building saying they wanted to regenerate the town centre but she was slightly worried that there was no parking.