Coastal restaurant recommended for approval despite government department fearing it could be damaged by ‘rising sea levels’

The plans relate to this former lifeboat building in Portrush. Picture: Google Maps.

TRANSFORMING a former lifeboat building in Portrush into a restaurant should be given the go-ahead, a report set to be tabled at a planning meeting of Causeway Coast & Glens Borough Council recommends.

That is despite fears from a government department the site could be damaged by the sea in storms.

ANY ‘PORT’ IN A STORM?…Large waves sometimes batter the coast at Portrush.

 

The report says: ‘Northern Ireland Environment Agency Marine and Fisheries Division advise that the proposal is contrary to climate change policy as set out in the SPPS.

‘They advise that they considered the impacts of the proposal and on the basis of the information provided do not consider this to be a viable long-term option at this specific location.

‘They advise that during storm events, waves, stones and marine debris do reach this level
of the coast. With an increasing number of storm events and sea level rise, the proposed development may come under increasing threat from the sea in the future. They also advise that they will not grant approval for future measures to protect the proposal from the
sea.’

Causeway Coast & Glens Borough Council themselves are the applicants in a full planning application regarding a Grade B2 listed building at Ramore Head.

The Council is seeking planning permission to add a single story side extension to the existing vacant ‘Old Lifeboat Shelter’ at Ramore Avenue and want to make internal refurbishments for a change of use to a licensed restaurant.

The old shelter is a landmark in Portrush and well-known to many visitors to the town.

This was a previous impression of what the scheme could look like.

 

The developers say the floor in the restaurant will be well above any projected sea levels.

There have been 16 objections lodged with planners about the scheme.

The report set to be tabled at the planning meeting which is due to be held on August 26 says:

‘• This proposal is considered acceptable at this location having
regard to the Northern Area Plan 2016 and all other material
considerations.
• The proposal meets the requirements of SPPS and policy CTY 4
of PPS 21 in terms of a conversion of a local building in the
countryside.
• The proposal will not have an adverse impact upon the natural
environment.
• The proposal meets with PPS6 policies BH7 and BH8.
• The proposed external extension and alterations are acceptable in
terms of design and are visually appropriate in this rural context.
• The proposal will not cause significant adverse harm to residential
or public amenity.
• There are no adverse impacts upon archaeology and natural
heritage.
• Access and Parking arrangements are acceptable.
• 16 letters of objection has been received in relation to this
application and have been considered.
• The statutory consultees have raised no concerns apart from
NIEA-Coastal Team.
• NIEA- Coastal Team advise that the proposal does not meet within
climate change policy.
• The proposal complies with all relevant planning policies and
guidance including the Northern Area Plan 2016, SPPS, PPS 2,
PPS 3, PPS 6, PPS 15, PPS 21 and DCAN 4.

The report goes on to recommend ‘that the Committee has taken into consideration and agrees
with the reasons for the recommendation set out in section 9
and the policies and guidance in sections 7 and 8 and resolves
to APPROVE planning permission subject to the conditions set
out in section 10.’

The report says 16 letters of objection have been received in relation to this
application which has raised the following points of concern:
‘1) The proposal does not compliment the Landsdowne Master
Plan as a restaurant use is not linked to the harbour use. The
scheme does not complement the objectives within the
Landsdowne Master Plan.
2) The Landsdowne Master Plan clearly indicates that the
shelter would be used for maritime purposes only. A
restaurant use is not a maritime usage.
3) There are too many restaurants within the immediate area
and the Council should reconsider and the proposed use
would destroy the ambiance of the historic building. The
Council should be enhancing the maritime use of the harbour.
4) The Portrush Buildings Preservation Trust made a proposed
use for the building as a Community, Maritime Heritage and
Water sports Centre. The conversion of this building would
add to the maritime history of the Harbour and encourage
water sports activities on the East Strand and provide
additional tourism to the town. The proposed use in contrary
to the maritime heritage of the area.
5) The proposed side extension is not in keeping with the
character of the existing listed building. The building should
be used for a community use.
6) The scheme does not support the future use of Portandhu
Harbour. The reopening of Portandhu Harbour and securing
an appropriate and sustainable use for the lifeboat shelter to
help reactivate the coastline should be proposed. This will
enable more people to understand, participate and enjoy
maritime heritage.
7) What is required from the Council is a commitment by the
Council to pursue the development of land-based facilities to
attract cruise ships into Portrush. A major part of this
development would entail the re-opening of Portandhu
Harbour. It is the only sheltered water along this stretch of the
Northern Ireland Coast, it is underutilised and a natural
anchorage for cruise ships.
8) The NE and SW elevations use of glazing at ground and first
floor level. This does not take account of the potential risks to
persons in or near the building during a severe storm event.
9) Marine and Fisheries Division with DAERA has stated that
during storm events waves, stones and marine debris do
reach this level of coast. With an increasing number of storm
events and sea level rise, the proposed development may
come under increasing threat from the sea in the future. What
measures are there to combat this threat?
10) This shelter and Portandhu Harbour were meant to be
development together. There is no mention of Portandhu
Harbour within this application.
11) The proposed design is not suitable for purpose and does
not take account of the potential damage which could be
caused by storm events. Especially to the railings and glazing
facing north-east.
12) Marine and Fisheries Division with DAERA has stated that
during storm events waves, stones and marine debris do
reach this level of coast. With an increasing number of storm
events and sea level rise, the proposed development may
come under increasing threat from the sea in the future. What
measures are there to combat this threat?
13) The construction of an external decking area over the
existing slipway to the rear of the building detracts from the
historical significance of the building and will undoubtedly be
subject to damage from storms.
14) The applicant has indicated at question 13 on the P1 form
that they do not own or control any adjoining land. This is
incorrect as Council owns the adjacent grass area at
Reviggerly Point and also Portandhu Harbour. The applicant
has indicated on question 19 on the P1 form that the
development is not in an area of known risk of flooding. This
is incorrect as storm waves flood the grass area, pavements
and roadway around the building as well as the interior of the
existing building during autumn and winter storms.
15) Question 26 regarding Council Employee/Elected Members
interest has been answered ‘No’ in both part. This is incorrect
as the Applicant is the Council therefore both Council
Employees and Elected Members have a direct interest in the
application. It cannot be correct and proper for a Council and
its Planning Department to consider and approve its own
applications.
16) There is an oversupply of restaurants of Portrush. Within the
town boundary there are 15 restaurants, 15 cafes, 2 Pizza
outlets and 4 other fast food outlets. A further restaurant is
not required.
17) The Portrush Building Preservation Trust estimates that the
cost of the building conversion would be in excess of
£200,000 and we presume this sum will fall to be paid by the
Council.
18) The cooking smells and bustle associated with a restaurant
at the end of an open green peninsula used by walkers and
those looking for a peaceful place away for the busy town
does not seem to be an appropriate activity at this location.
19) The Coleraine Yacht Club and Portrush Building
Preservation Trust recently submitted a proposal to the
Council which comprised a mixed-use scheme to enable the
building to be utilised for activities such as yacht racing, boat
building, sea-kayaking and a small maritime museum,
combined with a modest coffee-shop element. This would
enable the building to serve as a community asset. A
restaurant use is not acceptable at this location and is not in
accordance with the Landsdowne Master Plan.’

The report goes on to say that ‘NIEA/DAERA: Coastal Development- Marine and Fisheries
Division: has stated that they have considered the impacts of
the proposal and on the basis of the information provided advise
that the proposal is contrary to paragraph 3.13 of the SPPS.’

The report adds: ‘Climate Change and Flood Risk
8.21 NIEA- Marine and Fisheries Division advise that the proposal is
contrary to climate change policy as set out in the SPPS. They
advise that they considered the impacts of the proposal and on the
basis of the information provided do not consider this to be a viable
long-term option at this specific location. They advise that during
storm events, waves, stones and marine debris do reach this level
of the coast. With an increasing number of storm events and sea
level rise, the proposed development may come under increasing
threat from the sea in the future. They also advise that they will not
grant approval for future measures to protect the proposal from the
sea.
8.22 NIEA- Marine Team advised that the proposed development may
be contrary to the Strategic Planning Policy which states in Section
3.13 that “The planning system should therefore help to mitigate
and adapt to climate change by avoiding development in areas
with increased vulnerability to the effects of climate change,
particularly areas at significant risk from flooding, landslip and
coastal erosion and highly exposed sites at significant risk from
impacts of storms”. Paragraph 3.13 of the SPPS also promotes
the sustainable reuse of listed buildings to tackle climate change.
8.23 The applicant has provided a Flood Risk Assessment (FRA) for the
proposed development. DFI Rivers was consulted with this
information and stated that the Strategic Flood Map (NI) indicates
that the site lies on the periphery of the 1 in 200 year coastal flood
plain. As the FRA has demonstrated that the site is outside of the
flood plain the provisions of FLD 1 do not apply. DFI Rivers
presented no objections to the development or the sustainability of
the proposed scheme.
8.24 In relation to climate change the FRA has been modelled taking in
to account predicted sea levels rises to 2050. The Q200 coastal
flood level + climate change is 3.426mOD. The proposed
development proposes to use/maintain the existing finished floor
levels of 5.6mOD. Given the current floor level is currently 2.17m
higher than the predicted Q200, and due to the proposed
development site benefiting from a significant natural harbour and
a combination of favourable prevalent wind direction/strength all
results in a low risk of wave action breaching the 2m existing
freeboard.
8.25 In consideration of the proposal, the proposal has been considered
acceptable and significant weight has been given to: the
importance of the listed building; its sustainable re use ensuring its
retention and upkeep; and, the details of the submitted FRA which
show the finished floor level 2m above the 2050 predicted sea
level.

‘CONCLUSION
9.1 The proposal is considered acceptable in this location having
regard to the Northern Area Plan, and other material
considerations, including the SPPS. The proposal meets the
requirements of the SPPS and PPS 21 in terms of the conversion
of a locally important building in the countryside. The change of
use and proposed extensions are compatible with the listed
building status and meet with the provisions of PPS 6. The location
of the proposed development and climate change have been fully
assessed and weight has been given to the elevated position and
securing the upkeep and retention of a listed building with an
economically viable use. Approval is recommended.’

The report adds: ‘Due to the location of the building on the periphery of the coastal
flood plain the site maybe at risk of flooding in an extreme event.’

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