Northern Ireland

Executive calls in police over Belfast site role

The Housing Executive has called in the police to investigate its role in a controversial development site in north Belfast.

The site, at Nelson Street, is now owned by the company, Big Picture Developments.

One of its directors is the chairman of the Policing Board, Barry Gilligan.

The Housing Executive said concerns have been raised about its role in the site and, as a responsible public body, it has referred the matter to the PSNI.

The Housing Executive backed an original proposal for social housing on the site.

But, according to a BBC Newsline investigation, before this could go ahead the land was acquired by Big Picture Developments, which now wants to build 250 private apartments there.

For years, the Housing Executive opposed the commercial scheme, insisting the land was still designated for social housing.

But recently it appeared to change its mind and wrote to planners telling them that it was "withdrawing the request for social housing at the scheme".

It is believed this letter will form part of the police investigation.

After it was discovered, senior staff at the Housing Executive ensured the letter was withdrawn and its original position of opposition to the development was reinstated.