MID and East Antrim Borough Council are being mooted as potential future occupiers of office accommodation at the former Michelin factory.
A recommendation to approve plans for Class B1 office accommodation at the Raceview Road site was agreed at last week's meeting of Mid and East Antrim Borough Council's Planning Committee.
The plans, submitted by Sliverwood Properties Ltd, relates to the change of use from ancillary office space to stand alone B1 office space.
The application was recommended for approval by the Planning Department at last Thursday's meeting in the Braid.
Principal Planning Officer, Gary McGuinness, explained that the existing office building is located within the Michelin factory site and is arranged over two levels.
He added that Mid and East Antrim Borough Council had been identified as potential future occupiers to accommodate staff currently located in Galgorm and the Ecos Centre.
In addition the proposal, which received no objections, reuses existing car parking facilities on site.
Mr Guinness told the meeting that the main planning policy thrust is that Class B1 office accommodation “should be directed to the town centre”.
However, he added that the Ballymena Area Plan 1986-2001 “acknowledges that with the decline in manufacturing several sites have become vacant”.
“Under this policy favourable consideration will be given to the rationalisation of vacant industrial buildings into other uses,” he said.
Mr McGuinness continued: “The Michelin factory site is located approximately two miles north east of Ballymena town centre. As part of the application the agent has included details of a study carried out to identify suitable existing town centre sites.
“The study extended to both Carrickfergus and Larne and identified six alternative locations. These were assessed against a set criteria and discounted.
“The existing buildings primary function was as Class B1 office use albeit ancillary to the main industrial use of the former Michelin factory. The site benefits from existing transport infrastructure and car parking facilities.”
Mr McGuinness added that given “the lack of a Civic HQ” Mid and East Antrim Council have been highlighted as the “prospective end user”.
He continued: “The existing industrial use of the Michelin site has ceased with a significant loss of employment for the local economy. The reuse of this existing site would reintroduce employment to this site and potentially attract other businesses”.
The Planning Officer concluded: “Given the fact that the proposed building is an existing office block and would therefore limit precedent; the shortage of suitable office accommodation in Ballymena town centre; the fact that Mid and East Antrim Council do not currently benefit from a Civic HQ and that by council locating facilities at Michelin may encourage further investment at this location, on balance, the proposed change of use is considered an acceptable other use, if limited to a temporary period allowing it to be reconsidered in the future under the prevailing policy at that time.”
He said the change of use shall be for a temporary period of six years, commencing from the date of approval.
The Planning Department recommended that the committee approve the application.
It was proposed by Councillor Audrey Wales and seconded by Alliance Councillor Robert Logan that members approve the recommendation.
This was agreed with eight members voting in favour of the proposal.