Belfast Telegraph

Minister attacked on social housing

Political bickering has broken out over plans to build 200 social houses on the site of Girdwood barracks in north Belfast.

SDLP Social Development Minister Alex Attwood has been accused of electioneering by the DUP whom he in turn, accuses of “zero sum politics”.

Construction is expected to begin as early as next year.

But in February 2010, concerns were raised over the then DSD Minister Margaret Ritchie’s decision to build on the site.

North Belfast DUP representatives Nigel Dodds MP, Nelson McCausland MLA and William Humphrey MLA said in a joint statement: “This is a very cynical move by the minister who knows full well that his announcement cannot be turned into reality as it does not have the agreement of the Assembly Executive as |required.

“The former Girdwood barracks site is a key interface location in north Belfast which is being advanced through an inter-community master-planning process under OFMDFM and DSD. Given that the development will be cross-cutting and significant, it will also be subject to approval from the Assembly Executive.

“For Minister Attwood to ignore all of this and to announce consultation on an unapproved plan for 200 social houses on the site is totally reckless and contrary to the agreed process.

“This is a clear case of blatant electioneering by the SDLP minister, seeking to claim credit for 200 social houses for nationalists at an interface site.

“We can assure that community that nothing will be agreed concerning the Girdwood site until there is inter-community agreement and Executive approval.”

Mr Attwood said: “We must not cling to a past that is already dying. This is not zero sum politics. We must break free from the view that what is good for nationalism is bad for unionism and what is good for unionism is good for nationalism. This leads all down a dead end.

“I have demonstrated that need should be tackled whenever it manifests itself — in the Lower Shankill and Lower Oldpark for example. In Girdwood, housing is the same — a response to housing need. I simply do not accept the DUP assertion that my decision to build 200 houses on the Girdwood site requires Executive approval. Nor do I accept that there is some kind of a cross-community veto to be exploited by the DUP.

“It is utterly contradictory of the DUP arguing that something controversial like the Conflict Centre at the Maze does not require Executive approval, but that the Housing Minister’s decision to proceed with housing, where he owns the land, has the money and where there is desperate need, does require Executive approval.”

A DSD spokesperson said “It is completely untrue to suggest that Minister Attwood is acting recklessly, or abandoning the shared space principle. The minister wants to build a shared society here. Houses will be allocated on need, not creed.”

Belfast Telegraph


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