Belfast Telegraph

DUP's Jim Wells blames east Belfast residents for £9m hit taken over Ormiston House property fiasco

By John Porter

East Belfast residents have been partly blamed for the Ormiston House debacle which cost the taxpayer millions.

The Assembly bought the 13-acre site off Hawthornden Road from the Police Authority in 2001 for £9 million.

It was intended as plush office accommodation for civil servants but was never used.

Over the intervening years £1.5m was paid in maintenance and security of the Grade B-listed building, which was once the home of shipbuilding magnet Sir Edward Harland.

This week the property was sold off for £1.5m.

The Assembly Commission authorised the initial purchase of the site.

Current DUP Health Minister Jim Wells was one of its members in 2001.

He said: "The problem was the residents surrounding the property did not want the Assembly using it as offices.

"So there were delays in the planning and then it wasn't needed.

"Now, most likely, it's in the hands of a property developer who will develop it into residential accommodation and it will be a much busier site than what we had intended to use it for."

He added: "We had no idea that there would be difficulty in the planning and that there would be such opposition from residents.

"Obviously, it's disappointing.

"Hindsight is a wonderful thing, but, I believe, we wouldn't have done anything differently."

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