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Hightown and New Lodge to get million apiece

By Evan Short

the Hightown and New Lodge areas are to be among the big winners when funding of £9million due for North Belfast  is announced next week in Stormont, the North Belfast News has learned.

The money, which is part of the Social Investment Fund set up by the Office of the First and Deputy First Minister to deliver social change, will see a £1 million community centre built on the Hightown Road and a £1 million social economy project in the New Lodge created for training and reskilling to improve employment prospects.

Funding will also go towards a ‘warm homes’ scheme that will see the social housing stock across North Belfast benefit from investment in insulation and retrofitting to improve heating efficiency.

This work will be carried out by firms who will be obliged to create apprenticeships for local people due to social clauses being included in the contracts.

The £9 million will be distributed between both communities equally.

Speaking to the North Belfast News, St Mary’s on the Hill Parish Priest Fr John Forsythe said the Hightown Road area was in desperate need for such social investment.

“If a facility such as a community centre is coming here for the youth of the area, then everyone will welcome that. There is a dearth of youth facilities generally in Newtownabbey, and particularly in this area, so it’s a great boost.”

Sinn Féin MLA Carál Ní Chuilín said the £9 million investment would go some way to addressing the needs of the constituency.

“Clearly reports of an additional £9 million coming into North Belfast from the Social Investment Fund is to be welcomed. The fund was set up to be additional to other funding schemes already in existence and this money will help to target vulnerable communities through creating jobs and services.

“North Belfast has suffered a legacy of inequality and deprivation and whilst this money will be very useful, there is still much work to be done,” she said

£80 million in total will be spent across the six counties.

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