Oaklee Housing Association Face Concerns From Local Residents Over Social Housing Development For Newcastle

Harry McConnell, Oaklee Housing Association Director  explained that  “this proposal is still in its very early stages and we are within the design trying to keep parking inside the development. Each home will have a front door and ground floor access. [caption id="attachment_31119" align="alignleft" width="300" caption="The old college site in Donard Street in Newcastle where a proposal for social housing has been drafted up by Oaklee Housing Association."][/caption] “They are lifetime homes, and will be built in red brick matching the buildings in the area of Donard Street. Each apartment will be approximately 1100 square feet in size. But I have to say, this is a consultation and we have to listen to your concerns. There are green areas built around the development which will give the young people a social area to mix.” Oaklee Housing Association Officer Allison Mooney said, ” Anyone in the Newcastle area within a radius of 10 miles can apply. The majority will be for small family needs and some for more elderly residents.” The proposal to accommodate almost 60 people on the old college site. However, one concerned resident explained that the housing proposal was “changing the use of the lane way (Park Lane) separating the two areas of the site. This will now become a road. Already we have a busy taxi rank in Donard Street, with commercial vehicles unloading, and bins being put out from local businesses. It will be a very busy, congested and dangerous road. Mr McConnell said that Oaklee HA would take on the concerns of the residents that they felt this would become a public thoroughfare but there was a discussion about motorists generally accessing the car park and using it to park their vehicles. He added too that there had been consideration to widen the Park Lane  but residents argued that it would not be wide enough for traffic and that some would use it as a rat run to circumvent the often busy traffic flow at that end of the town.  Mr McConnell explained that he was aware there were traffic issues and needed to hear these from the residents in the consultation process. [caption id="attachment_31120" align="alignright" width="400" caption="Chairing the meeting in the Newcastle Centre was Cllr Carmel O'Boyle with Oaklee HA Allocation Officer Allison Mooney, Mark Walton, Oaklee Housing Officer with Cllr Eamonn O'Neill."][/caption] But the discussion warmed up when Alliance Down District Councillor Patrick Clarke said, “I have been contacted by the local residents. I hope this is just not a box-ticking consultation. They are concerned at the introduction of this type of social housing into a residential area and on the effect it will have on their roads. There is also very  little provision for recreation for the younger residents. “This needs be be just a consultation. There are 149 units being built in Castlewellan and this will absorb a large part of this demand fro social housing. Therefore, I just do not believe that it is in the right location.” There was also discussion about safety and one elderly local resident on Park Lane said, “Can you guarantee that the ambulances will be able to drive through the lane, given there could be parking problems? This is just a recipe for disaster? Manouevering onto the lane with be difficult and dangerous as I have to reverse out into it.” SDLP Newcastle Cllr Carmel O Boyle who was chairing the meeting said, “This is only a meeting at the start of the longer consultation process.” And her colleague Cllr Eamonn O’Neill said. “It is important that we all hear your views. But it is important to recognise that if Down District Council does not buy the properties, it will go back into the pool for public authorities to consider. It would make a great site for a special spa hotel, and would add toward the Newcastle town centre. Old school buildings are not good to renovate. We need a purpose-built building. We are still not clear about the future of the Newcastle Centre. This still has to be debated by  the councillors. [caption id="attachment_31121" align="alignleft" width="187" caption="Down District Councillor Patrick Clarke has questioned the location of the old Newcastle college as a suitable site for social housing. "][/caption] “But I have families coming to my office complaining that they are currently living in sub-standard homes.” Cllr O’Neill said he was chairman of the Newcastle Townscape Committee and that there had been plan to improve the area around Donard Street but it had not been accepted by the residents there. I would like to have accepted that scheme by the DOE but now it is very difficult and funding is quite limited. “A normal housing area for planning purposes allows 1.5 spaces per home for cars, when most homes have space for at least two. As far as access to the site is concerned, that can be looked at. Also, I do not subscribe to the notion that some people have the right to a home… everyone has the right to a decent home and the right to bring up their children in a decent environment. And we need stricter rules in managing the housing sector as a lot of homes have gone into the private sector and into the hands of private landlords who own significant numbers of houses.” In the discussion it was conceded that there were no other houses in the centre of Newcastle that had three stories similar to the proposed scheme. Again Cllr Patrick Clarke said that “this development is not in keeping with this part of Newcastle and there will be repercussions felt in years to come.” In concluding the meeting, Cllr O’Boyle said, “No-one at this meeting tonight has said anything against social housing. We will be talking to Oaklee further about this development proposal”.]]>