Belfast Telegraph

New group campaigns to save Olympia community centre

By Dave Whelan

REPRESENTATIVES of Belfast City Council have agreed to meet a new south Belfast residents committee set up to campaign for the future of Olympia community centre.

The Olympia Community Centre Support Group Committee was established last week amid growing concerns that current community provisions would be moved off their current site to facilitate the planned new Olympia Leisure Centre.

The new leisure centre is part of the £25m Windsor Park redevelopment, aimed at regenerating the area while improving the national stadium.

Last week, following the closure of the public consultation on the new leisure centre, a flier was delivered to the homes of residents that suggested the current community centre on the Olympia site would be demolished and facilities would be spread throughout the wider community.

The group will now meet representatives of BCC's Leisure Committee at City Hall next Tuesday to discuss community concerns.

Linda Swift, a volunteer at the Olympia community centre for over 15 years and the new chairperson of the Olympia Community Centre Support Group Committee, said that the Tate's Avenue area badly needs a community hub in comparison to other areas.

"I have lived in the local community for over 33 years and it's obvious to everyone how valuable this community centre is to the local area and how much the residents of Tate's Avenue rely on it.

"The centre is open and accessible to the whole community, so why would they want to move it further into the Village where there are already numerous facilities? The residents here had to fight hard for a community centre, which began in a Portacabin and now 27 years later they are going to tear it down."

Ms Swift criticised the public consultation of the new leisure centre saying that it focused on leisure facilities rather than any local provisions or concerns, and added that there had been original promises that there would be no dilution of current community facilities to accommodate the new redevelopment.

"At present this area is used by a diverse range of people and is accessible to all, because of its location. We have different ethnic minority groups taking part in classes for one example and it begs the question whether all these groups will feel comfortable or safe relocating to the heart of the Village.

"We have heard on the grapevine that there has been approximately £1.2m set aside for the development of a new community centre and the aim of the committee is to voice public concern and highlight where this facility is most needed."

Last week, community representative Billy Dickson criticised the plans for punishing the residents that would be most impacted upon by by the new redevelopment work.

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