PLANS for 28 new homes at Dermot Hill off the Whiterock Road will not affect access to Belfast hills or damage historical raths or the local environment the Department for Communities' Historical and Environmental Division has ruled.
The ruling comes after 117 objections were filed against the housing project with the most frequently raised objections being that housing could impact a local area of high scenic value and a number of sites of historic interest including two ancient raths.
The Department for Communities' Historical and Environmental Division investigated each objection and ruled the new housing would not impact the ancient sites or spoil the local environment, meaning the plans for the new homes, 14 detached and 14 semi-detached will now be going ahead.
Sinn Féin Councillor Michael Donnelly said there were concerns that the housing would affect access to the Belfast Hills but said the concerns have been addressed and the report stated the new homes would not impact access or damage the local environment or historical sites.
He said: “The historical and environmental division which is part of the Department for Communities and deals with the protection of historic monuments have said the housing doesn’t encroach upon the ancient raths or endanger them.
“All the concerns were looked at and addressed and the Historical and Environmental Division came back and said there were enough mechanisms put in place that the ancient rath won’t be damaged and it would protect the wildlife and local habitats.
“They also said that the ‘Access to the Hills’ campaign that ourselves in Sinn Féin and the Upper Springfield Development Trust have been working on – which will create walkways to unlock the hills – will not be affected by the housing project in any way.
“Our concern was that the housing project would stop the hills campaign but both projects are now going to go along together. The hills campaign will still be going ahead and the housing project won’t stop or affect it and the new housing won’t stop access to the hills."
Michael said the new housing and other projects for new housing would contribute towards relieving housing stress in West Belfast which currently suffers from acute housing need.
“It is much-needed housing in the area. The housing stress in West Belfast is massive and as elected representatives we’re contacted daily by people who are looking to get their basic entitlement of a home and a roof over their head. These 28 units along with the Glenmona development and other developments across West Belfast will go a long way to addressing the housing stress.
“Regarding the objections, they were each looked at and taken into consideration but all statutory consultation came back and said the concerns around the rath and the environment will be protected.”