£10 million boost to crack open Girdwood potential

By Gemma Burns

A massive £10 million funding award for a health and well being hub at the Girdwood barracks site has been secured by Belfast City Council, the North Belfast News can exclusively reveal.It is understood £9.6 million has been granted by Europe to build a multi use building on part of the Crumlin Road site which has been at the centre of much controversy in recent times.

Belfast City Council is remaining tight-lipped on the news with a spokesman saying only they “have not received any official notification in this regard”.

However the North Belfast News understands the council has been informally told the grant from the Special EU Programmes Body (SEUPB) under its Peace III programme has been recommended.

With the waiting list for social housing for nationalists in North Belfast at crisis point and a dearth of leisure facilities, the Girdwood site has long been identified by local campaigners as a prime location for crucial development.

However plans to build 200 homes on the site of the former army barracks were controversially vetoed by Minister for Social Development Nelson McCausland in July this year.

The DUP MLA scrapped earlier plans by his predecessor Alex Attwood to build 200 homes at the site, leading to claims he took a sectarian decision.

The latest good news on the community hub is expected to reignite calls for the Girdwood site to be used to alleviate the nationalist housing shortage and as a prime location for leisure facilities that can be used by both communities.

The centre for which the £10 million will be used will include leisure facilities, a café, community garden and other facilities.

Like Belfast City Council North Belfast politicians were also remaining tight-lipped on the issue.

Sinn Féin MLA Gerry Kelly said it was too early to make a comment.

“At this point we wouldn’t be in a position to comment, but like everyone else we hope for a positive result,” he said.

A spokesman for the DUP said: “The DUP welcomes the application for the Girdwood Community Hub going through this stage of the process.

“It is now incumbent on Belfast City Council to work with SEUPB to ensure that maximum funding is realised.

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