Northern Ireland

Nelson McCausland vetoes Girdwood social homes

girdwood barracks

Nationalist politicians have criticised a decision by the Social Development Minister Nelson McCausland not to proceed with plans to build 200 homes on the site of a former army barracks in north Belfast.

The former DSD minister Alex Attwood said in March that they would be built.

The homes were in proposals sent by the Housing Executive to the DSD but they were not approved by Mr McCausland.

The waiting list for housing in the area stands at 2,427.

Sinn Fein's Conor Maskey alleged it was a "sectarian decision".

"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.

Alban Maginness described it as "very disturbing news".

'Proven need'

"It is very disappointing, but perhaps not surprising given the fact that Nelson McCausland in the past along with his colleagues in the DUP has been fiercely opposed to any housing development on the Girdwood site," he said.

"Clearly 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."

Mr Maginess said he believed the money was there to proceed with the plans.

"The DSD owns this 20 acre site so it is not a matter of the Housing Executive having to buy the land," he said.

"This is a brown field site which has been cleared and is ready for development so the costs will be much much less. Therefore it is good value for money."

The DSD released a statement: "The minister has always recognised the value and importance of this site in the wider context of north Belfast and is supportive of any approach to develop Girdwood in a manner that will bring benefit to and have the support of the whole community."

The Housing Executive refused to comment.

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