Enquiry over council land for social housing

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Carrickfergus Borough Council is to examine the possibility of selling land close to Sunnylands estate in order to meet a need for social housing.

In a letter sent to the local authority at the end of July, the Northern Ireland Housing Executive indicated it had identified a requirement for housing in Carrickfergus and the surrounding areas.

“Housing Associations have not identified and/or acquired a sufficient number of sites to satisfy the housing stress and deliver the social housing development programme,” the letter added.

Referring to the one hectare strip of land, situated between Fergus Avenue and Carrickfergus Train Station, the Executive enquired if the council would be interested in selling the section which is in their ownership.

“Several potentially suitable sites have been identified and the next step would be for the Housing Executive to contact a Housing Association (not yet decided) with a report highlighting all interested parties,” the letter added.

“It is then up to the Housing Association to decide on which sites to pursue and to make contact with you to discuss possible purchase.”

Clarifying that the correspondence was being sent on a ‘without prejudice’ basis, the Executive added that it should not be considered an offer to purchase but merely to “gauge any interest in disposing of the lands”.

Discussing the issue at Monday night’s meeting of the local authority, members agreed to register an interest with the Housing Executive.

“Bearing in mind the need for social housing, I would propose we express our interest and then put this in the hands of Land and Property Services for valuation,” said Alderman Jim Brown.

However, Councillor Billy Ashe cautioned against incurring any additional cost to the council.

“There are a few things we would have to consider first, including whether or not it would be the right scheme for the area, whether it would be advantageous for residents, and whether planning permission would be granted,” he said.