Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 18 September 2014

Storm over £450,000 in council cash for former B Specials' private gun club

Brian Wilson
Brian Wilson

A row has broken out over a plan to use almost £450,000 of public money to fund a private gun club established by former B Specials in a community centre.

North Down independent councillor Brian Wilson has branded the idea of the public paying for the new Clandeboye and District Ulster Special Constabulary Pistol and Rifle Club as "economically, socially and morally wrong".

The borough's gymnasium and Hamilton House, both on Hamilton Road in Bangor, are about to be demolished.

They were to be replaced with a £1,294,000 community centre, but following a council vote it was agreed a further £442,000 would be paid to cover the cost of a gun club in the basement.

Mr Wilson's four concerns are:

  • The proposed users of this facility are a private club.
  • Members of the public will not be able to use the facilities unless they join the club which can restrict membership.
  • The council is spending £442,000 yet an investment appraisal indicates the facility will provide no additional income.
  • Councillors did not have an adequate opportunity to debate the issue. It was pushed through on a party vote.

Mr Wilson said: "When the B Specials were abolished in the 1970s they formed their own gun club.

"It got a lease to use the borough gymnasium, the lease has run out and the building is being demolished so they will lose their facility."

The politician told the Belfast Telegraph he does not support the idea of the gun club being in the same building as a children's play group.

"I am absolutely not in favour of it," he said. "There are lots of issues around this.

"It's a community centre, there will be lots of kids and young people about. There is no way the ratepayer should pay, it's totally inappropriate.

"It's economically, socially and morally wrong."

Cllr Wilson has written to the local government auditor so his objections to the gun club plans can be considered.

He is also unhappy the council decision "was taken in committee without any press or public present", adding that North Down Council takes "unjustified advantage of Section 23 of the Local Government Act to exclude the press at every opportunity".

"I can't see any justification at all," he added. "Anybody I speak to isn't in favour of it."

BACKGROUND

At at North Down Borough Council meeting on June 25 two options were considered for a new Community Centre on Hamilton Road Bangor.

Option one was to provide a new community centre incorporating the CAB at the cost of £1,294,000.

Option Two was was to provide the same centre but to add a basement to provide a facility for a projectile range gun club at a total cost of £1,736,000.

The council voted 14-4 for option two to provide the gun club facility.

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