THE DUP in North Belfast have called on supporters to voice their opposition to plans for social housing on the Hillview Retail Park site.

Plans have been submitted for 18 homes on the site, which has lain dormant for over a decade, with previous anchor tenant Dunnes Stores leaving in 2007.

With a consultation period now under way, DUP representatives have reiterated their opposition to the application and are “strongly encouraging” their supporters to do the same.

In a statement, the DUP provide contact details and information about how people should submit their opposition to the plans.

The statement was signed by William Humphrey MLA, Lord Mayor Alderman Frank McCoubrey, Alderman Brian Kingston and Councillors Nicola Verner, Dale Pankhurst, Fred Cobain and Dean McCullough.

The statement from North Belfast DUP representatives reads: “When Hillview Retail Park applied to Planning Service last September to revamp their retail units it was also reported that they were seeking to build around 18 houses on site.

“North Belfast DUP representatives made clear our total opposition to that housing proposal, though details were not available at that stage.

“The plans for 18 social housing units on site have now been added to the Planning Service website. The consultation period commenced last week and closes today, Wednesday 3rd February. We will be strongly objecting to this application and would encourage others to also make their views known.

“This interface site, between Shankill, Woodvale, Ardoyne and Lower Oldpark, has a long history of shared industrial and commercial use. The DUP has always supported a retail park on site, providing employment and large stores for the benefit of all.

“We cannot support social housing at this location which would create a new interface and would, in all likelihood, damage community relations.

“This unique site should be retained as a shared space for the benefit of all surrounding communities and beyond. It should not become a source of tension and division.”

Sinn Féin believes the DUP opposition relates to local voting patterns and this week they said the DUP’s opposition to social housing at Hillview “will not go unchallenged”.

Local Sinn Féin MLA Caral Ní Chuilín said: “Unfortunately the DUP’s total opposition to social housing is nothing new, either at the Hillview site nor countless other sites across North Belfast.

“I find the DUP statement offensive and provocative as I’m sure the many people waiting for a home in Belfast do also.

“Let me be crystal clear, there should be social housing at Hillview, those homes should be allocated to whoever needs them regardless of creed.

“These failed sectarian politics of the DUP were roundly rejected by the people of North Belfast at the general election a year ago.

“The Hillview development has the potential to be a fantastic mixed-use development benefiting all the people of this constituency including retail and homes.

“No barrier to equality will be left unchallenged by Sinn Féin and rather than fostering division the DUP should join with the rest of us in attracting investment into facilities, businesses and particularly much needed homes.

“We have a vision for an inclusive, peaceful and equal North Belfast where no young person is growing up without a home and where families can live free from the divisions of the past.

“Sinn Féin is working every day for that goal on behalf of every single constituent and that is what people are asking for.”