Irish Republican News · August 3, 2011
[Irish Republican News]

[Irish Republican News]
Housing project spiked by new DUP minister

A project to build 200 houses at a former north Belfast British Army barracks has been blocked by unionists for naked territorial and sectarian reasons.

The plans to build 200 social homes at the former Girdwood barracks at a cost of 20 million pounds were announced by then social development minister, Alex Attwood of the SDLP, in March.

However, since the Assembly election, that ministry has fallen into the hands of the DUP. The Housing Executive sent the proposals to new DUP Minister, and notorious hardliner, Nelson McCausland, who dumped the plan.

The former British Army base, bounded by the Antrim Road, the Crumlin Road and Cliftonpark Avenue, has been closed since 2005.

However, unionist politicians have repeatedly objected to plans for housing, located in a nationalist area although near a ‘peace line’ interface,.

Around 2,000 people are on the housing waiting list in north Belfast and any new development at Girdwood would be allocated to nationalists.

Nationalist politicians have reacted angrily to the decision and suggested it was motivated by party interests.

SDLP North Belfast assembly member Alban Maginness said the news was “disturbing”.

“It is very disappointing, but not entirely surprising. The DUP has in the past been fiercely opposed to any housing development on the Girdwood site,” he said.

“The SDLP believes Girdwood presents the only opportunity, the only serious and substantial space in north Belfast for housing development and there is no reason why the first phase of the development at Girdwood should not be housing as there is a proven objective need.

“As the Department for Social Development owns this 20-acre site it offers value for money during a harsh economic property climate where the Housing Executive will not have to buy the land.”

Sinn Fein assembly member Conor Maskey said the decision was “sectarian”.

“With Girdwood what we had in front of us was a unique opportunity to make some sort of dent on the waiting list and to see it in the context of an overall very good and positive development for the city as a whole in terms of economic regeneration, social use, leisure and of course housing,” he said.

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© 2011 Irish Republican News