A SOUTH Belfast councillor has given a “guarded welcome” to plans by Belfast City Council to host community consultation events for the Gasworks site.
Cllr Deirdre Hargey told the South Belfast News that the vacant land had originally been zoned for housing and adopted formally for such in 2014. However, Ms Hargey said residents from the Markets, along with other representatives, had serious cause for concern after Council had changed the planning to “mixed use to facilitate an office development”.
“There has been a lot of campaigning, a lot of lobbying from Markets residents, from members of the Markets Development Association and political representatives on this issue,” said the Sinn Féin woman. “Residents sit cheek to jowl from this land and it has been and will continue to be our intention to ensure the rights and needs of the community in terms of meeting critical social housing need,” she said.
“We have taken our campaign into the chamber of City Hall, to its gates as well and we have stressed that housing units be incorporated as part of this Masterplan.”
As the process of pre-application community consultation gets underway, Council have stated that the Masterplan proposal will potentially incorporate a mixture of uses including new homes, commercial and leisure/tourism facilities.
A number of drop-in events will begin this Friday at the Cromac Regeneration Initiative from 1pm-7pm and on November 24 at the Radisson Blu Hotel.
“There are over 86 families currently in critical need at the minute for housing,” said Cllr Hargey. “That is only in the Markets area, not the Ormeau or city centre. It is anticipated that the community consultation feedback will be taken back to Council after Christmas for planning to agree an outline of the finished proposal.”
Markets resident Bernie Davison said: “We have been campaigning for a long time on this issue and people needed to get on the streets – there isn’t enough housing for people. My own children have had to leave the area to go elsewhere. I can’t stress the fact we need housing on this site enough.”
Pádraig Ó Meiscill from the Markets Development Association added: “We want to see meaningful results come from the consultation. We work on the ground everyday of the week, dealing with the families who are on the waiting list.
“The girl who is taking the legal case against the development for the office has four kids in a two bedroom flat. We are in no doubt of what the need is in the local community. If it takes a consultation for City Council to realise that then well and good. There has to be meaningful results as a result of it and that is houses on the ground.”
The first of the Open House events will take place on Friday November 10 from 1pm-7pm at Cromac Regeneration Initiative on Donegall Pass. A second will take place on Friday November 24 from 1pm-7pm at Radisson Blu Hotel, Cromac Place. All are welcome to attend.