COUNCILLORS have voiced their anger over the University of Ulster’s plan to build housing on the former site of the Newtownabbey Boat Club.
At the March Planning and Consultation committee meeting, plans to develop the land between 745 and 747 Shore Road for housing were recommended for approval by the Planning Service.
This move sparked anger among the councillors. They felt the land had been sold to the university for a “peppercorn amount” of money on the understanding the site would be developed into a centre for boating excellence, only now for it to appear the university was to profit from developing the site for housing.
Councillor Jackie Mann said: “I’m disgusted at the behaviour of the university, they brought their plans for all their housing at the Jordanstown campus to us and never once mentioned this.
“When we asked about the site they said they would come back about their proposals and now they have done this. Well I hope their housing plans don’t go through now.”
Paul Girvan added: “The council sold the land to the university for a peppercorn amount of money. We maybe should have had ourselves better protected on this matter. I think what we all feared would happen here has happened.”
Alderman Billy DeCourcy added: “We [the council] handed over that land in good faith for the benefit of the residents in the area and the university has double-crossed us on this.
“This land was given as a gift from the council to benefit the health of all the residents in the borough and now it’s to be used for housing, I am very annoyed about this.”
However, following the meeting the Times contacted former councillor David Hollis who was a university representative during his time on the council.
He said the site was never in the ownership of the council and was always university land during his time on the council in the 1980s.
He said: “This was always a hot potato, but as far as I am aware, in my eight years on the council the land was always in the ownership of the university.
“When the boat club had to move from Gideon’s Green, because of the road development, to the university site the members basically got everything for free.
“The site was a former merchant navy school for navigation and when that closed it was ideal for the boat club, but it was always university land. Also chair of the university representatives on the council, Lord Justice Carswell, was a strict man and he would never have allowed this type of thing to happen.”
The University of Ulster was asked for a response on the concerns of the councillors. However, at time of going to press it had not responded.