Belfast Telegraph

Maze centre ground rent plan mooted

Watch towers at the remains of the Maze prison, where a conflict resolution centre is planned
Watch towers at the remains of the Maze prison, where a conflict resolution centre is planned

Extra ground rent could be charged to investors to make the Maze conflict resolution centre financially viable, MLAs have been told.

A shortfall of about £650,000 a year to run the peace centre on the site of the former prison in Co Antrim has been identified by experts, based solely upon money spent by visitors and excluding potential money generated by private business on the wider site.

The Maze held some of the most high-profile loyalist and republican prisoners, and is best known as the site of the 1981 IRA and INLA hunger strikes when 10 men died in a protest over prison conditions.

Terence Brannigan, chairman of the Maze/Long Kesh Development Corporation, briefed MLAs and said they were considering four separate forms of revenue ahead of making recommendations to the Executive.

He added: "Should we have as part of the... ground rent for the private sector coming on through there, should there be a ground rent and should that include an income stream that helps support the peace building and reconciliation centre?

"Can you create a strong income stream that means government don't have to put their hands in their pockets at all?"

He said early estimates that the old jail-turned-museum and peace building would require an official "subvention" of about £650,000 a year for running costs were based upon a spend per visitor of £7.

But the corporation is considering four separate income streams, including international exchanges, education and training, archives and shared space initiatives and it is only if more money is needed that an extra levy on ground rent would be considered.

The corporation is considering options ahead of making a submission to the Office of the First Minister and Deputy First Minister, which has pledged the reconciliation centre will not become a shrine to terrorism.

Only a small part of the site will include the new peace centre and what remains of the former jail. It will sit alongside a preserved H block and other buildings, including the chapel and the hospital where the hunger strikers died.

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