Belfast Telegraph

Council dad and son in political duel over Bangor shooting club plan

By Rebecca Black

A war of words over new facilities for a gun club in Bangor has become so intense it has divided a father and son.

Independent councillor Brian Wilson expressed outrage after a proposal for the club was passed unanimously at a meeting of the new North Down and Ards super council on Thursday night.

He lashed out at Alliance Party representatives - including his son Scott - for not voting against it, and claimed the move would add almost £1m to the cost of building the new community centre.

The row focuses around a site on the seaside town's Hamilton Road. Under council plans, Hamilton House will be sold off, the borough gymnasium demolished and a new community centre built.

The scheme will cost £2.2m.

The Clandeboye and District Ulster Special Constabulary Pistol and Rifle Club has been using the basement of the gym for several decades.

Mr Wilson - who is a member of North Down Council, but not the new shadow council, claimed that the cost of building the new community centre without a basement for the gun club will be £1.2m.

The old council approved the building of the centre without the gun club in 2012.

But on Thursday evening the new council approved the building of the centre with the gun club.

Mr Wilson described the decision as "bizarre", claiming it was "morally, socially and economically wrong".

He claimed that the council was showing a "strange choice of priorities when other services are being cut", that it was inappropriate to have guns in a community centre, and that it would only be used by a small minority of residents who own gun licences.

Mr Wilson said there were 1,000 signatures on a petition against the new gun club at the proposed community centre.

However, Mr Wilson's son, who sits on the new council as an Alliance representative, appeared to disagree.

Mr Wilson criticised the Alliance Party for not voting against the proposal on Thursday night, but son Scott said his colleagues had challenged it at committee stage and lost.

"There was little point in challenging it again as we had no support," he said.

He added that he was opposed to the gun club being included in the new centre because it was a "disproportionate amount of money that is being spent for the benefit of one club".

DUP councillor Alan Graham, who sits on both the old council and new body, defended the decision.

"This new building will also have a rifle range and archery range," he said.

"Councillor Wilson has been very much against the projectile range.

"He talks about a gun club, but the facility will be for archery and rifles.

"The point is, pistol shooting and rifle shooting is an Olympic sport, not some cowboy thing.

"For 40 years there has never been an incident in that gun club," he added.

Background

North Down independent councillor Brian Wilson has been fighting a bid to create facilities for a gun club at a proposed community centre in Bangor for several years. He has been the voice of a group of local residents who are fiercely opposed to a gun club being included in the new building. However, the battle now appears to be over after the new shadow council voted on Thursday evening to approve the building of the new Hamilton Road centre with facilities for the gun club.

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