Belfast Telegraph

Nelson McCausland hits out at homes veto jibe

By Noel McAdam

The axing of plans for 200 homes on the site of a former British Army barracks in north Belfast has been defended by a DUP minister.

An angry Nelson McCausland hit out at the "distortion" of his decision by the SDLP and Sinn Fein after he overturned the plans of SDLP predecessor Alex Attwood.

The Social Development Minister said he intends to meet a number of "stakeholder" groups in the near future. But he insisted the potential uses for the former Girdwood base had to be agreed by more than just nationalists.

"The facts regarding this issue have been misrepresented and distorted. The Girdwood site is a great opportunity for all the communities of north Belfast," Mr McCausland argued. "It has always been recognised that the development of the site must be taken forward on the basis of it being a shared site, with a variety of uses."

He referred to a 'draft masterplan' blueprint drawn up for the Crumlin Road jail and Girdwood site almost exactly four years ago which concluded: "...cross-community support will be vital to successful development, particularly with regard to housing."

DUP representatives including Mr McCausland accused Mr Attwood of "blatant electioneering" when as minister he announced in the run-up to the May Assembly election that construction of the 200 homes would begin next year.

North Belfast SDLP MLA Alban Maginness has bitterly attacked Mr McCausland's reversal and demanded the Housing Executive make its own position on the issue public. And former Sinn Fein Executive minister Conor Murphy accused Mr McCausland of a "sectarian decision".

The current waiting list for housing in the area stands at 2,427. The Housing Executive has made no comment.

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