Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 29 November 2014

Army homes lined up to meet need for social housing

Homes at a former Army base are to be requisitioned to help meet housing needs.

Social Development Minister Nelson McCausland is writing to First Minister Peter Robinson and deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness to ask for the properties to be handed over for civilian use.

But he has conceded a major roads and sewerage system upgrade scheme will be required, as well as a revamp of the houses, which could delay their allocation until next year.

The homes are on the edge of the St Patrick's Barracks in Ballymena, which was handed over as part of last year's Hillsborough Agreement on the devolution of policing and justice.

While a number of issues including decontamination have arisen on other ex-military establishments, the minister said "good progress" has been made at the Co Antrim site.

There are a total of 47 former MoD homes involved and Mr McCausland said he hoped to get the OFMDFM go-ahead as soon as possible.

In a letter seen by the Belfast Telegraph, the DUP minister said: "Whilst the site itself is vast with much potential, these existing homes sit neatly on the edge of the larger site and I am pleased to confirm my department remains committed to acquiring them for social housing.

"I will write to the First and Deputy First Minister in the coming weeks setting out my plans to acquire these units and, subject to their approval, hope that the final transfer can be effected in the coming months."

Four former military sites were 'gifted' to the Executive last year with an estimated collective value of £21m. The handover, which formed part of the deal on the transfer of policing and justice powers to Stormont, was designed to assist the Executive raise cash.

St Patrick's Barracks in Ballymena and part of the St Lucia base in Omagh, transferred to the Office of the First and Deputy First Minister last year, the Shackleton base at Ballykelly has gone on the market, and Lisanelly base, also in Omagh, is earmarked for use as an educational campus, under ownership of the Department of Education.

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