Belfast Telegraph

Thieves make off with £15k haul on community centre's last night

By Claire McNeilly

An East Belfast community centre has been ransacked on its last night of operation.

Goods worth around £15,000 were stolen from Clonduff Community Centre, which is due to be demolished within the next couple of weeks to make way for a new £20m facility.

Questions are being asked as to why so much valuable equipment was left in an unmanned building that was due to close.

The stolen items include a table tennis table, a chair lift, two indoor bowling mats, six fire extinguishers, more than 50 black plastic chairs, 19 trestle tables, six boxes of crockery and a tub of cutlery.

It is understood that a local band, who used the centre for a practice session on the Monday evening before the incident, had returned the keys.

There was also a community fun day and party staged last Saturday in the building, which is behind the now closed Robinson Centre.

Sources said that staff were shocked when they entered the building as normal on Tuesday morning to find that everything was missing.

Local DUP councillor Tommy Sandford said he "utterly condemned" the people who ransacked the centre, branding it "an unnecessary act".

"There was no need for anyone to go in and steal the equipment," he said.

"If it was that badly needed then all they had to do was ask and I'm sure that some agreement could have been reached."

Mr Sandford added that the expensive items should have been removed from the building earlier for safekeeping.

"Hindsight is a wonderful thing, but the equipment could have been taken away weeks ago to prevent something like this from happening," he said.

Clonduff Community Centre was formerly under the remit of Castlereagh Borough Council but is now the responsibility of Belfast City Council.

The council said it was unable to comment due to the ongoing police investigation.

Plans to demolish the Robinson Centre emerged after it was decided that the £5m cost of removing asbestos and legionella at the complex would make revamping it too expensive. The council is knocking down the building and the Clonduff one to make way for a new facility that will include a 25-metre four-lane swimming pool, a 20-metre training pool and leisure water provision, four courts, a sports hall, a 140-station fitness suite, fitness studio spaces and other rooms.

Police appealed for information following the burglary.

Sergeant Stuart Jackson said: "It is believed that entry was gained to the property sometime between 10.30pm on Monday February 27, and 9.30am on Tuesday 28 and a number of items were then taken.

"I would appeal to anyone who noticed any suspicious activity in the area or who has any information about this incident to contact Strandtown police on 101 quoting reference number 328 28/02/17/."

Information can also be passed anonymously to the Crimestoppers charity on 0800 555 111.

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