Plans kick off for major Solitude redevelopment

By Evan Short

Plans for a multi million pound redevelopment of Solitude that could see the main stand torn down and replaced got underway this week with the first in a series of planned meetings with local residents.
People living in the three streets used by the club for access were invited to a meeting on Tuesday evening (November 18) with Chairman Gerard Lawlor.
The North Belfast News was denied access to the meeting which included residents from Cliftonville Drive, Cliftonville Parade and Cliftonville Street, Lord Mayor Nichola Mallon and North Belfast Sinn Féin MLA Gerry Kelly, as it was deemed private. However it is believed that outline plans include proposals to knock down and replace the old stand, the building of a nursery school and a public gym and to improve spectator facilities around the ground in what would be a major investment by the fan owned club.
Gerard Lawlor later confirmed he had met with the residents and described the discussions as “productive”.
“Last night (Tuesday) we held a meeting with residents who had been invited to a discussion on potential facilities that they would like to see incorporated into our future vision for Solitude. It was a productive evening and we look forward to future discussions.”
Gerry Kelly said a lot of issues regarding the proposed development were raised.
“I attended the residents’ meeting this week and found it informative constructive and positive. Facilities and land are at a premium in densely populated nationalist areas of the city so its key we are imaginative and sensitive when embarking on such major initiatives like this.
“Clearly for residents issues of traffic and parking are a concern but they also are keen to see the development of facilities open to the community. I must praise both the club and residents for engaging to sort the existing problems out and they have Sinn Féin’s full backing in whatever way possible we can help.
“I would encourage residents to attend meetings and work with Cliftonville for the best outcome for the whole community.”

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