Belfast Telegraph

Plan finally agreed for abandoned north Belfast Army base

By Noel McAdam

A cross-community breakthrough is set to breathe new life into north Belfast after years of stalemate.

More than six years after it was ‘gifted’ to the Stormont Executive, a use for Girdwood Barracks on the Crumlin Road, has finally been agreed between unionist and nationalist representatives.

The site is to include housing, a multi-use pitch for football, gaelic and rugby, along with an indoor sports arena and a commercial building for businesses.

But the heart of the project at the ex-army base is to be a community ‘hub’ including facilities for education and training, a cafe and wireless internet provision.

There will also be a public realm area and a community garden along with a shared space programme to help bring the two communities closer together.

A joint statement signed by DUP MP Nigel Dodds, his party’s Social Development Minister Nelson McCausland, Sinn Fein Culture Minister Caral Ni Chuilin and former junior minister Gerry Kelly, as well as the SDLP’s Alban Maginness, acknowledged the past and was upbeat about the future.

“In an area of the city most affected by the conflict and continuing to deal with the legacies of division, the Girdwood site has been a powerful and disheartening symbol of the past,” the statement said.

“All around us we can now see signs of confidence and optimism for the future in north Belfast.”

Over the last six months, elected representatives in the area, including Ulster Unionist councillor David Browne — who also signed the statement — have been engaged in drawing up the Girdwood ‘masterplan’.

Announcing the project on Monday, Mr McCausland confessed: “They said that this area was too divided to ever come together around an agreed plan for shared development at Girdwood.

“Today I’m glad to say that the political representatives in this area have united around a common purpose to bring regeneration to this area.

“We’re sending a powerful message that positive change is coming to north Belfast.”

Story so far

The former Girdwood army barracks on Belfast's Crumlin Road was acquired by the Social Development Department six years ago. Disagreement about plans for much-needed social housing has since delayed the start of any work. But a mission statement for the Girdwood plan said it hoped to “create a regeneration project of international significance which brings maximum economic, social and environmental benefits to the local and wider community”.

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