Adams welcomes Carvill group pull-out on site of RUC barracks – Onus now on Minister
West Belfast MP Gerry Adams has welcomed a decision by the Carvill Group to withdraw from the site of the old Andersonstown RUC barracks.
"The onus is now on the Minister, Margaret Ritchie, to urgently review the series of bad decisions taken by her department on this issue and ensure that a proposal is brought forward which meets the needs of the local community."
The West Belfast MP said:
"After meeting with Sinn Féin, I think the Carvill Group comprehended the implacable opposition by the local community to their proposals.
"The decision to select the Carvill Group as preferred developer was made by the Minister for Social Development almost 3 months ago, without evidence of community support and without having properly considered Sinn Féin's proposal that the land be gift-aided.
"Sinn Féin has set out in full the reasons why the Minister's original decision was wrong I wrote to her last week to say that the time has come for the Minister to answer. In the absence of a response from the Minister for Social Development legal action was in the final stages of preparation. That will action will now be held-off.
"Sinn Féin maintains that the site should be gift-aided to the local community for a local use to be determined by the local community, through effective consultation. That is now the best way forward."
Local councillor and MLA Paul Maskey said:
"I welcome the fact that the West Belfast Partnership Board will hold the first meeting of the consultative forum it is convening on ideas for the future of the site. With the involvement of local community stakeholders and residents. I am confident a vision for the site can be devised which will command the support of the vast majority of people in the local neighbourhood.
"Genuine regeneration must be done in partnership with and to meet the needs of local communities. I hope the Minister for Social Development now grasps the opportunity to do that in unison with the people of west Belfast." ENDS
Notes to Editors:
- Sinn Féin led the successful campaign to remove the barracks. Andersonstown barracks was demolished. Sinn Féin called for the land to be gift-aided or given over to the local community. We were the only party to do so.
- When the barracks was demolished, the land was handed over to the Valuation & Lands Agency. That agency offered the land for sale to any other government department before it proposed to put it up for sale on the open market.
- From July to September 2006 Sinn Féin made representations to direct rule Ministers that the site of Andersonstown barracks should be gift-aided to the local community. This was followed by direct representations by Sinn Féin to the Department of Social Development.
- The Department of Social Development and Belfast Regeneration Office gave no proper consideration to those representations and instead opted to issue a public advertisement to interested groups or individuals to submit how they would propose to develop the land if BRO sold it to them according to criteria set out in a 'development brief'. One of these was that there had to be an engagement and consultation with the local community and that any final development would have to show how it would benefit the local community.
- On 6 July 2007, Margaret Ritchie, the Minister for Social Development, announced that she had chosen the Carvill Group to develop the site.
- After already raising objections about the decision with BRO, West Belfast MP Gerry Adams wrote to Margaret Ritchie on 26th July 2007 to ask her to rescind her decision and reconsider Sinn Féin's proposal to gift-aid the site to the local community for public use to be determined through proper consultation.
- On 7th August 2007 Gerry Adams spoke with Margaret Ritchie by phone. He met her on 8th August, and wrote to her again on 10th August.
- Gerry Adams also proposed, with the support of local residents, that the West Belfast Partnership Board establish a consultative forum to engage with work with local residents, community, business and cultural groups to advocate the redevelopment of the site in the way which best meets the needs of local people.
- On 3rd September 2007, Gerry Adams led a delegation to meet with Margaret Ritchie and officials in her Department. At that meeting, it became apparent the Department had given no proper consideration to Sinn Féin's proposal to gift-aiding the site to the local community.
- On 10th September 2007, Sinn Féin met with the Carvill Group and set out the implacable opposition of the local community to their proposals. Sinn Féin asked the Carvill Group to withdraw their proposals.
- On 26th September 2007, West Belfast MP wrote again to Margaret Ritchie pointing out that he had no reply from her to correspondence over a two month period and calling upon her to rescind her decision.