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Causeway Coast and Glens Council faces legal action if plan for new Dungiven sports centre is blocked

By Donna Deeney

Published 06/01/2016

Unionist councillors voted to reject £2.5m Government funding to build a new facility in Dungiven
Unionist councillors voted to reject £2.5m Government funding to build a new facility in Dungiven

Legal challenges will be taken against Causeway Coast and Glens Council if it doesn’t go ahead with a new sports centre in Dungiven.

In December, unionist councillors — who are in the majority — voted to reject £2.5m Government funding to build a new facility in place of the existing dilapidated centre.

In refusing the money on offer from the Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure, the unionist bloc on the council argued that it would leave ratepayers burdened with the shortfall of £339,000, even though this sum was available through another pot of funding.

This sparked accusations of sectarianism at a public meeting held in Dungiven, where many angry residents voiced their total disbelief that such a large sum of money would be refused.

Sinn Fein members on the council have started proceedings to get the decision overturned and warned that ratepayers face an even bigger bill in legal fees if the matter isn’t resolved.

Dermot Nicholl will bring a proposal before a special meeting this evening that the decision to reject the funding is rescinded.

He said: “There is palpable anger that £2.5m of DCAL funding has been turned down and people want answers from those who voted against accepting the money that would allow the building of a leisure centre in Dungiven to go ahead.

“The flimsy argument put forward that ratepayers will be burdened by the shortfall doesn’t stack up, because the £340,000 needed is available through the Landfill Community Fund.

“What does make sense to a lot of people is that this decision was sectarian and was taken by people who are not working for the best interests of the whole of the council area.

“We are aware of a number of legal challenges in the pipeline, on a number of grounds, including failure to provide adequate and suitable facilities for people with disabilities.

“Court cases will cost the ratepayers money for sure, so if the councillors who voted against the leisure centre are so concerned about the ratepayers, perhaps they will vote differently when this is discussed again.”

One of those who voted to reject the funding was Limavady Ulster Unionist Aaron Callan.

He said that unless a way could be found to bring the project in under the £2.5m promised by DCAL, he would not change his mind.

He added: “This decision had nothing to do with being sectarian, but rather we do have a duty to the whole area and there are other places in need of community facilities.

“A maximum sum of £100,000 per year is available through the Landfill Community Fund, so to use this fund for the entire shortfall would not have been fair.

“If DCAL are prepared to fund all of the costs of the leisure centre or if the council officers can show us how the project can be brought in under £2.5m, then perhaps we could look at it again.”

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