COUNCILLORS have given their backing to plans to build a new £250,000 play park at Gortin Glens forest park, despite concerns that a number of mature trees will have to be cut down to make way for the development.
At the monthly meeting of Fermanagh and Omagh District Council’s planning committee, members approved proposals for a new playground facility and a short off-road cycle circuit, known as a ‘pump’ track, at the popular forest park.
It is proposed to build both these developments on sites adjacent to the existing main car park. At the meeting, a planning official confirmed that this will mean a number of mature trees will have to be felled and several car parking spaces will be lost.
But the planner revealed that, as part of the development, it is being proposed that, in future, two car parks at the rear of the forest park will become the main parking area, with the car park adjacent to the playpark being used for disabled and coach parking.
The new main parking area will be linked to the planned play park by a footpath, less than 300 metres in length, which is to be upgraded and improved.
Councillors were told that two objections had been received, one from the Friends of the Glen walking group and another from a local resident.
While the Friends of the Glens said it was “supportive overall” of the proposal, it raised concerns over the felling of the mature trees which had been in the park since the 1940s. The group were also concerned over the reduction in car parking and “insufficient” alternative facilities.
It argued that the design, layout and appearance was “unsuitable” and the natural environment was being “definitely altered” to cater for the development.
Meanwhile, the local resident shared many of the concerns raised by Friends of the Glen, but also questioned whether the resources would be put in place to maintain the facility, given how other facilities in the area had ended up, with particular reference to the nearby History Park.
In response, the planner told the meeting that the Forestry Service had been consulted and they had “no issue” in relation to the loss of the trees.
He said, “The trees are a non-native species and whilst they are long-established, there are numerous other trees in the area that are being retained and, if necessary, mitigating planting can be proposed by conditions, although it’s not considered necessary.”
The official also insisted that the playpark would integrate with the site and would not be ‘out-of-character’ with its surroundings.
“Overall, the objections have been considered, but not sustained,” he said.
After hearing the report, Cllr Barry McNally said that the proposal certainly had the potential to revitalise the area, but acknowledged the concerns over the loss of the trees.
He proposed imposing a condition requiring the planting of mature trees in a suitable location within the forest park to mitigate against those lost as a result of the approved works.
Members unanimously agreed to approve planning permission for the development, subject to a number of conditions, including Cllr McNally’s proposal.