Plans to build on site earmarked for social housing a ‘kick in the teeth’ for campaigners

UU asked to explain sports academy proposal

By Kieran Hughes

A proposal by a private developer to build a sports academy for the University of Ulster on a North Belfast site earmarked for social housing has the potential to destroy concerted efforts to ease the social housing backlog, a local housing campaigner has warned.

The North Belfast News has seen a copy of a private proposal by A2B Consultants and Rapport Architects to construct a Sports Academy for the University of Ulster in Carrick Hill with 350 bedspaces and a multi-story car park.

The proposal details plans to construct a “centre of excellence based around much needed accommodation for elite athletes” at the site at Clifton Street between Trinity Street and the Westlink.

The site has long been earmarked by a respected local residents group as a prime location for social housing in an area with great social housing need. Housing group Oaklee Homes Group Ltd (OHGL) have already applied for planning permission for a development of six apartments and four houses on part of the site.

Frank Dempsey from Carrick Hill Community Association, who obtained a copy of the plans for the sports academy, has called on the University of Ulster to distance themselves from the proposal and ensure that residential areas are protected.

The North Belfast News contacted the University of Ulster but nobody was available for comment at the time of going to print.

“It’s up to the University to say ‘no, not in our backyard’. This proposal cannot be inflicted on residential areas like Carrick Hill and turn it in to another Holyland,” said Frank Dempsey.

The community activist presented the plans to leading figures from the University at a meeting last week regarding the institution’s forthcoming move from Jordanstown to York Street.

“The proposal is clearly associating itself with the University,” he said.

“The University have told us that they want to work with the community but if you go through this proposal all you see is the University mentioned. We have been campaigning for years to try and get social housing on the front of Clifton Street and it’s a real, real kick in the teeth if this was to go ahead. We are trying to regenerate an area and then comes along this type of proposal.

“We honestly believe if the powers that be do not realise what is happening here then we are fast heading for a rerun of the housing conditions we had years ago with the Unity flats. Somebody needs to step up to the mark here.”

A spokeswoman for Oaklee confirmed that they have been advised by Carrick Hill Residents Association that there is a proposal for a University of Ulster (UUJ) development on lands at Clifton Street.

“OHGL has no other information and has received no other notification in relation to the proposal, and is therefore unable to comment in relation to any impact which it may have on the OHGL development,” she said.

The North Belfast News also contacted Rapport Architects but they also declined to comment.

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