Update on Rural Development Partnership funding

Following the recent village meeting on the green which agreed that a sub-group of the Resident’s Association would take forward the plans for a community structure on the village green a meeting has been held with the Council. The notes from that meeting are attached to this update.

Two key points emerged from that meeting:

  1. The RDP approval was for a marquee, a marquee storage shed, and environmental improvements. Association’s secretary, on behalf of the Committee, had indicated to the Council that those items were the preference of the village at that time (March 1, 2017). The Council then communicated our request to the RDP, and the RDP gave their consent for us to develop up those proposals. Consequently, we do not have approval from the RDP to develop a community structure.
  2. The RDP funding agreement would require the Council to take responsibility for any structures constructed through the RDP process. The Council, to avoid having to take on any further liabilities, decided that it would not be prepared accept any new responsibilities.

Both these points raise questions as to whether a community structure can be progressed. While a request could be made to the Council to look again at these decisions there is no guarantee as to whether they would be successful. To do so this request would have to go through the Council committee structure and would eat up further time. The Council have already told us that we do not have time on our side even without these further challenges.

How did this happen? When the Association’s Committee secretary, communicated our plans for the proposed funding back in March last year, it was not known to us then that this was being taken as our decided preference. Consequently, when other ideas began to be discussed, no-one on the committee was aware that any changes to that March request would require approvals through the Council committee structure and by the RDP. While the Council engaged in some of this exploration, it was never made explicitly clear that further approvals would be required.

All of this means that the development of plans for a community structure are now not deliverable in the short to medium term. To take advantage of the RDP funding we will now need to focus on what can be delivered: marquee, marquee storage shed, and environmental improvements. The Council will now commission a designer to develop plans accordingly. The Committee will keep you up to speed on what is being proposed. There is just enough time to develop these proposals so that the Council can submit a full funding proposal to the RDP by December.

This will all be disappointing news for a number of you in the village. However, it has been the committee’s view all along that a community structure should be explored should a site be found and the plans prove sustainable. We will continue to keep this in our vision for the village should future opportunities emerge.

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Meeting at Belfast City Council 9th Feb 2018

Edenderry Residents’ Association

Meeting at Belfast City Council 9/3/2018 9:30am

Present :

Neil Gowdy – Belfast Cily Council
Steve Malone – Edenderry Resident’s Association
Gavin Millington – – Edenderry Resident’s Association
Amy McCausland – Edenderry Resident
Eva McDermott – Edenderry Resident

At the meeting held on the Green Sunday February 25, 2018, it was agreed that Edenderry Residents’ Association would take the proposal for a community centre to the council and the promoters of this initiative would be invited to the meeting. These are the minutes of the meeting:-

Neil Gowdy presented a project time line and drew attention to the application submission to RDP must be made by Dec 2018. In his experience this means the project is very tight, with the number of activities needed to be completed before the submission. The presented project time line is for the currently approved council approach of providing a Marquee, marquee storage and environmental improvements.
Regarding a community centre; Belfast Council would need to reconsider their approach. This process would take 3 months to complete, only with approval would funds be made available to progress a community centre. The approval would be close to the start of July when the council does not sit. Neil felt that if pursued the grant money would be at a ‘very, very high risk’ of being lost, due to the Dec 2018 deadline not being meet. Neil also expressed the councils concerns about taking on another asset of a community centre, meaning that they may block a change of application.

Neil offered to look at reworking the time line to see if a community centre proposal would work in the time frame. It was noted that Hannahstown are concerned at the delays from Edenderry that they have uncoupled their funding application, to not risk their funding.

To ease the project time line, Eva proposed a parallel approach of gaining Pre-Aplication Discussions (PAD) before applying for full planning permission, giving the opportunity to progress a Community Centre project while Belfast City Council reconsiders its approach.

Some discussion was had about the total monies available, it was explained by Neil that there is a potential 75k from RDP, 25k match funding from the Council and 10k for professional fees. Totalling a potential 110k.

Eva offered to start the process of the Architect activities at no professional cost. She stated she would need help for some of the activities; later in the meeting it was stated that without Council approval for the change of approved council approach, no council funding would be available for these activities. The costs for these activities would run into thousands of pounds to cover; ground samples, site surveys, wildlife surveys etc. If these activities were needed to be carried out by a council appointed Architect, this council appointment would not happen until July as the council would need to approve the change of direction first (3 month process), it was noted that the council does not sit in July thus possibility for a further delay.

Some discussion was had over possible costing of a community centre and how not to let them get too high. Neil stated that council purchasing procedures and specification for the building would need to be to meet council minimum standards, pushing the cost up from an available off the shelf building, Neil said that in his experience 100K would not build a typical bespoke structure.

Neil stated that if the Association goes for the existing approved approach of marquee and environmental improvements, the project is ready to go, with an Architect appointment process starting next week. The marquee could be an off the shelf model and it would be for the appointed lead consultant to research and propose suitable marquees. They would also be responsible for investigating the feasibility of environmental improvements, which would be based on, but not limited to, those identified in the ARUP report.

He reiterated that if the council was asked to proceed with changing the approach to funding for a community centre and environmental improvement Edenderry would be at a very, very high risk of losing the funding altogether.

Neil will speak with his line manager to gauge whether it would be possible to bring the proposed community centre to Council and would let the ERA know the outcome of his discussion.

Steve and Neil had a discussion about the communications between the Edenderry Residents’ Association and the Council though the last couple of years.

It was agreed that the Edenderry Residents’ Association Committee should meet and discuss the next step.

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Minute of the meeting held on Sunday February 25, 2018

The following is a minute of the meeting held on Sunday February 25, 2018, when the Edenderry Resident’s Association held a public meeting on the Village Green to discuss the Rural Development Partnership Funding opportunity. This minute is meant to reflect the overall discussion and tenor of the meeting rather than be a detailed note of everything that was said.

The meeting was opened with a restatement from the Chair, Paul Mullan, on the Resident’s Association Committee’s thinking. He stressed that the Committee was not opposed to the concept of a community hall providing that an appropriate site could be found and the concept being backed by a viable business plan. Given that these issues would be assessed through the Council process of developing proposals, and recognising the support from many people present, the Committee gave its backing to the exploration of the concept. In doing so the Committee flagged up concern that should the Community Hall proposals run into difficulties, there may be little time to develop a Plan B, environmental improvements, and so the RDP money could go unspent.

The Chair opened up discussion from the floor.

The proposers of a Community Hall argued its value for the Village, through its potential for use and the opportunities it would create.

A letter was read from Planning Service which highlighted that PPS21 allowed for ‘a necessary community facility to serve the local rural population’ and that ‘the ‘log cabin’ could be considered under this legislation, justification that the cabin is a necessary community facility would be required’. The letter went on to state that this would need to be balanced against any loss of open space under PPS8. The letter concluded that ‘a planning application for a cabin sympathetically designed to blend with its environs could be considered favourably. The Chair informed the meeting that correspondence and communication from the Council and Planning Service gave an alternative view, suggesting that planning approval was unlikely. However, the Chair stressed that, following the development of designs, it would now be down to the Council processes to work their way through this issue.

There was debate and discussion about the costs of a community hall. One proponent of the hall indicated that all could be delivered for under £50k, the Chair advised that, from professional advice taken, a commissioned structure would more likely cost a minimum of £75k. The Chair then informed the meeting that whatever structure is constructed it will have to be designed to meet the RDP and Council requirements.

The size of the hall was raised with some arguing that for the activities identified a 5x10m structure would not be big enough. It was also suggested that the success of this hall could provide a business case for the construction of a larger one in the future.

Location was also discussed, with views expressed ranging from the appropriateness of the proposed site, to taking a more long-term view about location and considering brown-field areas within the village. Concern was also raised about the potential for anything being situated in the Western part of the green.

Comment was made about the divisiveness of the issue, and that such division was not in the spirit of the village. A view was also expressed that it was vital now that a unified face was presented, particularly when it came to dealing with politicians. The Chair commentated that committee’s role was to represent everyone.

Following a discussion about how many people supported the proposals the Chair reminded everyone that democracy also meant respecting the plurality of viewpoints. While there was strong support for the community hall there were others who questioned whether the right approach was being taken to achieving this objective.

The chair summarised the committee’s position at the end:

  1. The development of a community hall at the eastern edge of the green will be explored based on the plans circulated.
  2. The Resident’s Association will take the proposals to the Council. Promoters of this initiative will be invited to the meeting. An inclusive subgroup of the committee led by Steve Malone will be set up to progress the exploration of the proposal and report back to the committee. (At the meeting it had been suggested that two groups were set up, but on reflection it was felt that one group would be better for project management reasons).
  3. The Council processes, including design, economic appraisal of viability, and planning will be progressed. If planning could be expedited sooner this may allow for the environmental Plan B being progressed should the community hall concept run into difficulties.
  4. It was agreed that there should be no development of the western part of the green which is currently open space.
  5. The committee will keep the village fully appraised of progress. Resident’s Association meeting notes will be regularly posted on-line and on the Village Notice Board. Should it be required further discussion could happen at the AGM in June.
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Statement on the Potential for RDP funding

Transcript of a Statement From Paul Mullan made on the Green– Chair of the Resident’s Association on the Potential for RDP funding

I would like to welcome you all to this discussion today about the Rural Development Partnership funding proposal for the village.

We are meeting because the issue of a community hall has raised a lot of debate and discussion and that is a good and healthy thing within a community like ours. Today the Resident’s Association wants to ensure that everyone understands the issues and has their voice heard.

To start I would like to outline how we got here today.

Back in 2015 the Council commissioned the ARUP report, a report to create a vision for the village and suggest potential improvements. The village was fully engaged in that process making a number of suggestions as to what should happen.

Then Belfast City Council advised us that there was the opportunity to get funding to make some of those proposals a reality. In the end £100k was identified: £75k from the Rural Development Partnership and £25k in kind contribution from the Council. That effectively means £75k for capital works. This was just a preliminary award requiring design works, an economic appraisal and planning consent. With everything needing to be agreed by the end of the year so that the Council can submit the grant request to the Rural Development Partnership.

Following from debate at the Resident’s Association committee we consulted the village again last September on how that money should be spent. The response was impressive, 46% of households in the village responded. The survey indicated that you, the villagers, gave equal weighting to the development of a community hall and environmental improvements.

At that time no site for a community hall had been identified. And the committee had ruled out development on the green for reasons fully explained on the Resident’s Association webpage. So a number of potential sites were then looked at and all were ruled out for issues of land ownership and planning: two of those sites were outside of the defined settlement area and so not developable, one was on land which could not be purchased. An expert view might say that the best possible site would be on a brownfield site, such as on the developer’s land, but any investigation of that would take us outside of the time-frame for the Rural Development Partnership, so that was ruled out for now.

The majority of the Resident’s Association believed that having exhausted our options we should place our efforts into developing up proposals for environmental improvements. At that moment one of the committee members argued that we had not explored development of the green fully. The majority of the committee disagreed for the reasons already explained on our website:

It is an open-space and green-field site which, according to the Belfast City Council, would be unlikely to get planning permission, and would be objected to by the Lagan Valley Regional Park who are a statutory consultee on all planning matters in this area.

Given the timescales that we are working to we believed that our only option was to back the environmental improvements. We had to choose between the risk of backing an approach which had little chance of success and one which we were confident of delivering on.

That is how we got to our decision.

But we recognise that as a committee we are only there to represent the interests of the village, and we cannot and should not act against the village will. If it is the will of the village to explore the community hall on the green we will not stand in that proposal’s way.

The document that has been sent to every house in the village was not produced by the committee and only presents one side of the debate. It paints a very attractive picture of what a community hall could achieve for the village. I am all for that. It is just not achievable on the village green. But the committee welcome this debate and are happy to let the council explore the community structure. To that end I would ask that the proponents of this plan and myself meet with the Council to discuss the next steps: public tender for a designer, economic appraisal to follow, and the planning process that would happen between September and November.

However, it is important that you all fully understand that by taking this approach this could lead to our inability to secure the grant that is on offer. It is only right and proper that the Resident’s Association make this point clear. But in saying that I’d also like to make it equally clear that we will not stand in the way of the proposal’s exploration.

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Grant – Further Update and Meeting

From the Chair:

I posted last week about the discussions that the Village Committee has been having on progressing the Arup Plan.  This is an update.

The plan you will remember made a number of proposals, and following a survey being conducted the results indicated that the village favoured exploring the development of a community hall/ structure as well as exploring environmental improvements.

At our committee meeting on Friday February 9 we came to a majority view that all potential sites for situating a structure had been exhausted.  However, one committee member proposed that we look again our decision to develop on the Village Green.  This view was not favoured by the majority of the committee for the reasons given in my last post:

  1. we are against any green-field development in and around the village, which is within the Lagan Valley Regional Park;
  2. the precedent that development of a green-field site would provide any developer – how could we argue against green-field development near the village if we ourselves had taken such an approach, it would clearly be hypocritical;
  3. the Green is outside of the BMAP settlement area; and given that,
  4. a significant number of people who live within the immediate area of the Green had expressed their opposition to development there, and as they would be more directly impacted we believed that their views should have primacy.

Following communication with the Council last week we have been informed that planning permission for any development on the Green would be unlikely because the Green is situated within the green-belt and, in addition, is outside of the settlement area.  We have also taken the mind of the Lagan Valley Regional Park who have informed us that they would be against any development of the green-belt.   All of which endorses the committee majority view about being against green-field development.

For all the reasons given above the committee is not in a position to explore any further the development of a community hall as part of the Arup plan and associated funding.  While this will clearly be a disappointment for many people given their support for the initial concept of a community space, the committee would like to assure you all that the development of a community space will not drop from our agenda as we propose to try and engage with the developer of the mill site to explore ideas in this regard.  However, we are under time pressure to develop viable and achievable plans and so need to press on.  The Council will be actively engaged with the next stage and will produce a set of proposals.  The committee will regularly update on this site what is happening.

The committee still plans to have a public meeting on Sunday, February 25 at 2pm as initially proposed.  The meeting will create the opportunity to brief you in more detail as to why the various sites investigated for a structure could not be developed further.  We shall also update everyone on the developing relationships between the National Trust, Woodland Trust, Belfast City Council and others in building a long-term vision for the village.

I look forward to seeing as many of you as can make it on the 25th.

Paul Mullan – Chair, Edenderry Resident’s Association

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Reply to Colin and residents of Edenderry

Dear Colin and residents of Edenderry Village,

Your post was in response to the decision that the village committee took on how we plan to take forward the 2016 Arup Report and subsequent grant award of £100k. As you know the committee was exploring two opportunities 1) the development of a community hall, and 2) environmental enhancements for the village.

Following protracted discussion of all the proposed sites the committee ruled out the development of a community structure as a viable proposal only because none of the proposed sites proved feasible. All sites proved to be unavailable for issues of land ownership, or being outside settlement zone designated by the Belfast Metropolitan Area Plan (BMAP).

When it came to the Green last year the committee agreed that there would be no development on the Green. The rationale for this is as follows:

  1. we are against any green-field development in and around the village, which is within the Lagan Valley Regional Park;
  2. the precedent that development of a green-field site would provide any developer – how could we argue against green-field development near the village if we ourselves had taken such an approach, it would clearly be hypocritical;
  3. the Green is outside of the BMAP settlement area; and given that,
  4. a significant number of people who live within the immediate area of the Green had expressed their opposition to development there, and as they would be more directly impacted we believed that their views should have primacy.

As a committee we recognised that we were taking decisions on behalf of the village, but we are very conscious that we need the trust of the village to do so. Consequently we felt it important to take the mind of the village last year and commissioned the survey you referred to. That survey showed that the village would like both a community hall and environmental improvements – there was no clear winner. Consequently, we explored the community structure proposition and came to the view that there are no sites for a hall at this time, should another similar opportunity emerge in the future this will be explored.

However, I take issue with your point about the survey, where you imply that because not everyone responded to the survey the views expressed should not be taken as the view of the village. The response rate (42%) was recognised by Belfast City Council as commendably high. The fact that a number of people did not respond does not invalidate the survey in any way. Most surveys only take a sample, we, however, endeavoured to take the mind of everyone in the village. The survey, therefore, gave the committee the mandate to explore both options, which we did in good faith.

Consequently, I am happy to call a village meeting on Sunday the 25th at 2pm in the Village Green when I will take the village through the process taken by the committee to date and restate our rationale for no green-field development. We will also update residents on the next steps on environmental improvements and developing the relationship with Belfast City Council, The Woodland Trust and the National Trust.

We are in the process of building a long-term vision for the village which is exciting and will build on the achievements made over the last number of years.

To end, can I remind everyone, time is running out for agreement, if we are not able to give the Council the go-ahead to

develop plans we will lose the money. Given that the next steps are for the Council to scope out what environmental improvements can be made and then feed back to us, if it is the feeling of the village that we need to have a further meeting at that time we are certainly happy to do so.

I propose not to engage in any discussion of this topic by social media, I hope everyone will respect that, however I am happy to meet with anyone who has a view on these issues between the 19th and 24th of February. I shall be away until then.

Paul Mullan

Chair, Edenderry Residents’ Assoc


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Grant Update

In 2016 our village was awarded an EU grant. Based on the Arup report and the completed village survey, two main areas of interest to our community became apparent: a community meeting place and environmental improvements.

After an 18 month consultation process which investigated proposed sites for a community hall/building, all sites proved to be unsuitable.

Therefore, the committee is putting all of its efforts into environmental improvements in the village. We are currently working with the National Trust, Belfast City Council and the Woodland Trust.

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