Sinn Féin MLA Gerry Kelly said the Girdwood development was “never going to solve the inequalities” in North Belfast housing, but it will open the gateway for other housing sites in the area. The Stormont MLA was peaking after criticism that the Girdwood site has been the victim of a DUP and Sinn Féin “sectarian carve up” and the building of homes on both nationalist and unionist sides of the site is simply an appeasement to unionists who originally wanted no housing on the land at all.
Gerry Kelly said that Girdwood will be a catalyst for other new developments in the area that will help reduce the nationalist waiting list.
“Monday’s announcement is hugely significant in creating a project that will be the catalyst for regenerating the Girdwood site, the surrounding communities, North Belfast and beyond,” he said.
“This all-party agreement can’t be underestimated and deals with some of the most socially disadvantaged communities in the North.
“It is also highly significant that this agreement doesn’t just deal with the footprint of Girdwood but looks beyond that at surrounding land which has the potential to be developed.
“There is land set aside for housing and through consultation with local people the shape and nature of that development can be addressed.”
He said the Girdwood site could never have solved the housing crisis, where the majority of people in North Belfast in housing stress are nationalist.
“Girdwood was never going to resolve all the inequalities in housing need that nationalists face in North Belfast, the space isn’t unlimited,” he said.
“It will however play some part in addressing that need but we will continue to battle for housing developments across the constituency including Ligoniel, the former Feldon Training Site and recent successes with 56 new homes in Bawnmore.”
SDLP councillor for the area Nichola Mallon welcomed the agreement on Girdwood but said the site needed significant social housing for nationalists to reduce the waiting list.
“The scale of the need is not fully recognized in this announcement and the principle of housing based on objective proven need has not prevailed when it comes to the Girdwood site,” she said.
“This is why I believe there is more work to be done on the Girdwood to ensure this principle of need is recognised.