Public to have their say on Dundonald Ice Bowl revamp after a five-year stalemate
The redevelopment of Dundonald International Ice Bowl is back on the cards after a five-year delay, it has emerged.
Lisburn and Castlereagh City Council has announced in a public notice that they will hold two public events in their renewed plans for the redevelopment of the popular leisure attraction.
In 2014 a plan by the then Castlereagh Borough Council to give the complex a £40m upgrade was put on hold.
In 2016 an audit found that the aborted project to redevelop the ice bowl in east Belfast cost £1.5m for preliminary work.
The local government auditor said the cost was a result of Castlereagh Borough Council entering a binding contract in 2013 with a designer and cost consultant for the project - without gaining consent from the new shadow council - Lisburn & Castlereagh - that was due to take over from it.
The successor local authority said it would not redevelop the ice rink and bowling alley and Castlereagh Borough Council agreed to cease work.
Auditor Louise Mason's annual report in 2016 said: "The project was ultimately aborted with a write-off of approximately £1.5m to the general fund.
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"This case highlights the importance of agreeing contract proposals with all relevant parties before significant preliminary costs are incurred."
Yesterday, Lisburn and Castlereagh City Council announced it will hold events next week to engage with members of the public, who are interested in the development proposals, and where they can make comments and speak to the design team.
The council did not respond to a request for further details last night, but Esmond Birnie, senior economist at the Ulster University Business School, said it was not a surprise that the original plans were blocked.
"Any piece of investment should go through a robust procedure and £40m is a major piece of investment," he added.
"Councils do have some ability to borrow money and they did use that to some extent. The old Castlereagh council was a reasonably heavy borrower during its existence. Caution is necessary with any major investment."
Dundonald Ice Bowl opened in 1986 and attracts hundreds of thousands of visitors annually.
It is also the only public Olympic-size ice rink in Northern Ireland and is the training ground for the Belfast Giants and some of Northern Ireland's top figure skaters, including Jenna McCorkell, Tameron Drake, Neil Wilson, Carla Quinn and Edward Alton. It is also a tenpin bowling centre.
Previously, the redevelopment plans included a new bowling alley, an NHS hub, a new children's soft play area and a wellbeing centre.