One of Northern Ireland's “most isolated and uninviting sites”, Crumlin Road Gaol, can become one of Belfast's most vibrant and attractive places, the Social Development Minister has said.
Margaret Ritchie was speaking as she announced a period of public consultation on the draft masterplan for the former Crumlin Road Gaol and Girdwood Army Barracks.
The Minister said: “This is another milestone in our plans to redevelop the former Crumlin Road Gaol and Girdwood Army Barracks. This is an important site for the future of this part of Belfast and for the regeneration of the city in general.
“It is important that the public, who have shown an interest in the gaol in recent weeks, are able to have a say on how it is redeveloped in the future.
“I would like to take this opportunity to clarify the purpose of the draft masterplan.
“It is essentially a plan of intent which sets out agreed development principals rather than a detailed pre-determined development scheme. The draft masterplan is just an illustration of what is possible on the site and demonstrates how we can deliver real social, economic and physical development for the community in north Belfast and the wider city.
“I should stress that the draft masterplan does not preclude any type of use whether this be leisure facilities, a tourist attraction or housing, including social housing.”
Crumlin Road Gaol was transferred to the Office of the First Minister and Deputy First Minster in August 2003 under the Reinvestment and Reform Initiative. The site of the former Girdwood Army Barracks was transferred to DSD in April 2006.
The two sites compromise some 27 acres.
The combined site has been subject to a masterplanning process in line with the site's zoning under the draft Belfast Metropolitan Area Plan (BMAP).
In March an advisory plan, chaired by Roy Adams, was established compromising political, community and statutory representatives with the task of overseeing production of the draft masterplan and making panel recommendations to the Minister on the agreed plan.
Public consultation will finish on January 22, 2008.
Margaret Ritchie said that the consultation will include a number of public meetings to ensure that as many people as possible have an opportunity to hear what is being proposed and to make their views known.
Emphasising the importance of the consultation process, the Minister said: “The draft masterplan is intended to stimulate open discussion and debate.
“I want to hear the views of the widest possible cross-section of people with an interest in the site.
“Exciting times lie ahead for this area. There is no doubt that the redevelopment of this site offers a once in a lifetime opportunity for physical, social and economic regeneration for the benefit of the entire local community and wider city.
“We will require considerable courage and tenacity to make this vision a reality.
“If we are successful then this site, at one time one of the most isolated and uninviting in Northern Ireland, can become one of Belfast's most vibrant and attractive places.”