Belfast Telegraph

Friday 29 August 2014

Army close to vacating base

By Claire Weir

The army are close to vacating the Masonic military base in Londonderry, the MP for the area has claimed.

SDLP Leader and Foyle MP Mark Durkan spoke after a meeting with MoD Minister, Derek Twigg MP in London.

In October last year, work began on the removal of the contentious Bishop Street site, which overlooks the Bogside, Brandywell and Creggan areas from the city walls.

The demolition of the site is part of the normalisation process linked to IRA decommissioning.

Mr Durkan said he was told by the Ministry of Defence that they are making solid progress towards vacating the Masonic military base in Derry city centre.

"Dominic Bradley MLA and I met with Defence Minister, Derek Twigg this morning to discuss normalisation across the North.

"We impressed on him our strong view that former military sites should be developed for the benefit of the local community," he said.

"I stressed with the Minister that the Masonic site in Derry is in a key location and that it could play an important role in the economic rejuvenation of our city centre. I welcome the assurance he gave me that further progress will be made towards completely vacating the site in the near future.

"I also welcome his assurance that the MoD has been fully assisting with the release of the Rosemount site and have a positive view of the proposals secured for that site.

He added: "I will continue to press the NIO and local government departments on the future of these sites. Having been an imposing and wasteful eyesore on Derry's landscape for far too long, people deserve to see them developed in ways that will bring social and economic benefit."

However, last year the Masonic fraternity in the city issued a reminder that it owns most of the land presently occupied by the Army at Bishop Street.

The Board of Management of the Freemasons' Hall at Bishop Street expressed concern that a number of statements were published in the Press speculating about how the site could be developed when the MoD vacates.

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