A MEETING set to take place last week hosted by a local firm wishing to extend its premises close to the Rathenraw estate had to be cancelled after an overwhelming response.
WS Dennison has been due to host the sessions at Farranshane House in Rathenraw last Wednesday (July 4). However, the event had to be postponed as too many people registered interest as could fit into the building under current social distancing guidelines.
Instead, a protest was held by local residents on the piece of green space which they fear they may lose.
The company, which is celebrating 40 years in business, operates in the fields of retail delivery, home delivery, storage, removals and customs and has a depot at Rathenraw Industrial Estate, which backs onto the green area and a number of homes off the Ballygore Road, including Devon Court, Suffolk Square and Dorset Close.
Local people have expressed concern that a parcel of grass used as a play area by local children, which has been acquired from the Northern Ireland Housing Executive, will be lost to a new turning circle for lorries.
But the company insist there is nothing to fear.
“We simply want to make better use of the land available to us to make our site more efficient,” said a spokesman. We do not plan to build on the land that we are seeking to acquire. We wish to connect our two existing warehouses within the current footprint.
“The additional land would facilitate this because the proposed bridging of our two warehouses would mean we lose vital yard space. The additional land, therefore, is mainly intended for additional parking space and to allow for vehicle manoeuvrability and turning circles.
“We assure you that there will be no loss of light as no additional buildings being erected on purchased NIHE land. No additional noise (fleet will not change – we do not operate manufacturing machinery or temperature-controlled products)
“No longer/night time working hours (typical hours of work will remain the same) . Positively, we are actively recruiting now and this land purchase will create additional capacity for more local jobs.”
A residents’ group has now been formed and a spokesperson told the Antrim Guardian: “Upon hearing the proposed development site to impose an industrial lorry yard into our residential community we have formed a group of residents, young and old, who are in opposition to this development.
“We believe that despite claims that it will have little impact on the area, that this will bring the area down with more pollution - c02 emission, light, dust and noise pollution.
“We also believe it will have a detrimental effect on the local environment and wildlife, having nearly 30 trees and two large hedgerows supporting local wildlife.
“Also, the very large green area which has been used by residents for over 45 years, by everyone in the estate and outside, by families, dog walkers, children and even a fox or two.
“Since COVID-19, areas like this have provided people with the ability to cope mentally with what has been happening this last year. We feel that if the Housing Executive sell this land that it will be the start of more sales like it and again the guarantees that are being given will not be enforced.
“There are other examples in the town like the Admiralty estate and Antrim Enterprise Park where promises have fallen by the wayside as time has gone on. Rathenraw was an estate has been through a lot in its lifetime and at the moment is in a good place with more people wanting to live here even with its limited housing. We are not protesting, we are opposing the sale of the land and want to tell the Housing Executive that we want this sale to NOT go ahead when the demand to live here is so high.
“We would also welcome any help be that legal, from wildlife or environmental groups and also the rest of the community. We have seen how working together with local councillors and residents, such things can be stopped, like the proposed garage on Ballycraigy Road seems to not be going ahead through the power of saying no and sticking together.
“We would put it to the Executive to contact us as we have been trying to contact them.
“We have not only a number of residents opposed but letters of opposition and petition signatures to hopefully stop the sale before it takes place and hopefully the development stage.
“We would like to point out that we wish WS Dennison as a company to succeed but not at the cost of what we have mentioned and what we hold dear in our community.”
A spokesperson for WS Dennison stressed that the company deals in only furniture delivery and is expanding due to a huge rise in demand for online sales because of Brexit and the pandemic. They added that the company has also secured a contract to work with the new Dobbies gardening superstore planned for The Junction.
“We want to work with the community and assure them this potential land acquisition will not impede their lives,” she said.
“There have been posters going up in the estate with incorrect information, we are being blamed for noise which is not coming from our premises.
“We have been here since 2005 and never had any issues with neighbours or the community.
“We hope to rebook a bigger venue for the Community Engagement event as soon as possible so that we can help allay these fears in person.”