A dispute over the development of a former police station occurred during the October meeting of Antrim and Newtownabbey Borough Council.
Elected members were discussing an item regarding the former Glengormley Police Station site and the development of the Glenwell Road area of the town on Monday, October 30.
In December 2014 the council agreed to purchase the former Glengormley Police Station in order to secure the site as a future regeneration location.
Ahead of this week’s meeting at Mossley Mill, a council recommendation that an Expression of Interest process be initiated was suggested.
A spokesperson for the local authority said: “It is proposed that in order to assess potential interest in the former police station site, an Expression of Interest process be initiated via public advertisement, which will enable all interested parties to submit their outline proposals for future use.”
Voicing disapproval, Sinn Fein representative, Cllr Michael Goodman said: “When the rush was made by the legacy Newtownabbey Council to buy this site, one of the conditions attached to it at the council meeting was that there should be a community consultation about the future use of the site.
“At the time, we as a party highlighted that there were a number of other potential uses for the site, not least the need for social housing in the Glengormley area that would be accessible by the whole community.”
The Glengormley DEA representative continued: “We warned at the time that the council buying the site was a bit previous, in the sense that the Glenwell Road development proposal hadn’t been fully developed.
“When the proposal did come forward, it was unfortunate that the only thing being proposed on the police station site were more restaurants and eating places, the last thing that Glengormley needs as anyone who lives there will know.”
Calling for the item to be deferred, Cllr Goodman added: “I would ask that it be deferred to allow further discussion about what exactly is needed in Glengormley on that site, rather than throw it out to the highest bidder to make significant profit from what should be a community resource.
“The site could potentially go a long way in helping to deal with the severe social housing shortage there is in Glengormley.”
Speaking in support of the recommendation that expressions of interest be sought, UUP group leader, Ald Mark Cosgrove said: “I think that the foresight of the council to purchase this ‘gateway to Glengormley’ as I call it building is still very much valid.
“I think the reasons for going out and seeking expressions of interest, I don’t believe them to be the same as Cllr Goodman believes in terms of I think any proposal that comes back with merit could be considered by the members of this chamber.
“I think talk of going to the highest bidder is completely wrong and undermines the ethos and ethics of this council because it’s not something that we do.”
The Glengormley DEA representative added: “I’m so glad that it is in the council’s ownership and not in the hands of the private sector, who could sell it to the highest bidder as opposed to the members of this chamber having the ability to think carefully and consider all proposals that are valued, regardless of the sector that they come from.
“I will certainly not be selling the gateway to Glengormley to the highest bidder, just because they are the highest bidder. They’ll have to have the best idea.
“We’ve got this asset sitting on our books at very good value. We don’t need to consider it in that manner.”
Cllr Goodman’s party colleague, Cllr Henry Cushinan seconded his proposal to defer the item, but this did not receive the majority of support from across the chamber.
Seconding Ald Cosgrove’s proposal. DUP group leader, Cllr Phillip Brett said: “Our party will not be supporting the deferring of this item. I think it is unfortunate this item is being debated in this way.
“I read a Sinn Fein press statement last week, jumping up and down about how they’ve been all over this issue for the last two years.
“This is the first time I’ve heard anyone from their party raise in the issue in the chamber since then.”
Hitting out at comments made by Cllr Goodman, Cllr Brett added: “In relation to his comments about the last thing Glengormley needs is more restaurants, I think that does a disservice to both the business in Glengormley that pay rates to this council, which Cllr Goodman and his colleagues happily spend, they provide a vital service to Glengormley and the wider borough.
“So to run them down in such a manner is quite disparaging, so I’d ask him to reflect on those remarks.”
Macedon DUP representative, Cllr Thomas Hogg MBE stated: “I’m quite surprised to hear what Cllr Goodman has said because just for his information, when council decided to buy this site and looked at what plans we might envisage, both of his then Sinn Fein councillors for Glengormley were in attendance and the decision was unanimous.
“When it was ratified at full council, there was no attempt by Sinn Fein to introduce any reference whatsoever to social housing.
“Let nobody in this borough be under any illusion. Sinn Fein has never proposed any reference to social housing for this site in this council.”
Speaking in support of Ald Cosgrove’s proposal, Glengormley Alliance representative, Cllr John Blair said: “While I’m happy to support Ald Cosgrove’s proposal, this won’t be a banked piece of land for years.
“Our ratepayers deserve to have that revenue returned. I’m seeing this as short to medium term, not medium to long term.
“When we have the outcome of this process, then we can make the decisions.”
The proposal to defer the item was defeated during a vote in the chamber.
Ald Cosgrove’s proposal, seconded by Cllr Brett was passed.