Ritchie has opportunity to take community concern over Barracks on board
Sinn Féin West Belfast councillor Michael Brown has said that Social Development Minster Margaret Ritchie made a mistake in her handling of the sale of Andersonstown Barracks but that she now has an opportunity to ensure that the objections of local residents to the proposals put forward by the Carvill Group at genuinely listened to.
Speaking after last night's public meeting in West Belfast Cllr Brown said:
"Sinn Fein has told the Department of Social Development, the Belfast Regeneration Office and the Carvill Group that we are opposed to the current plans for the development the Andersonstown Barracks site.
"Sinn Féin led the successful campaign to remove the barracks and when the barracks was demolished the land was handed over to the Valuation & Lands Agency, who offered the land for sale to any other government department before it proposed to put it up for sale on the open market.
"The Department of Social Development acquired the site and the local DSD agency, the Belfast Regeneration Office, then became responsible the development of the site. Sinn Féin argued that the site should be gift-aided to the local community for a worthy community project. Sadly this approach was rejected.
"Instead, the decision was taken to publicly advertise for development proposals including criteria 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. This was a commercial tendering process.
"In July Margaret Ritchie, the Minister for Social Development announced that she had chosen the Carvill Group to develop the site.
"Sinn Féin has now learned that conditions for the sale were attached by DSD to the development of the site by the Carvill Group. There is now an opportunity for Margaret Ritchie to ensure that the concerns raised by the community are fully taken on board.
"Sinn Féin will continue to work with local residents, community, business and cultural groups to advocate the redevelopment of the site in the way which best meet the needs of local people. Our focus is to achieve the maximum potential benefit to the local community of the development of the site." ENDS