A total of £15,000 is to be spent on research into the possibility of redeveloping the former Carnview Children’s Home in Rathfern as a social enterprise.
The building on Knockenagh Avenue has lain empty for years and has been marketed for sale by the Northern Health and Social Care Trust on several occasions.
At a meeting of Antrim and Newtownabbey Borough Council’s Community Planning and Regeneration Committee on February 8, councillors agreed to allocate £5,000 from the Community Planning and Regeneration budget towards research, including a feasibility study of potential social enterprise options.
The motion was proposed by DUP Councillor Paul Hamill and seconded by DUP Councillor Tim Girvan.
Development Trusts NI and North Belfast Ethical Investment have also committed £5,000 each towards the research.
They are working with the council and Rathfern Community Regeneration Group on the project’s business planning phase.
Centre Manager of the neighbouring Rathfern Social Activity Centre, George Thompson, welcomed the proposal.
“I would support a social enterprise at the site, anything that can improve the local area, be a focus for the community and give kids the chance of employment,” he told the Times.
“What we need is a place to train our kids in the hotel industry such as housekeeping, silver service or getting them into work with chefs.
“There are a lot of hotels in Belfast and we would love to have our kids ready to apply for those jobs.”
In 2011, Newtownabbey Borough Council commissioned a feasibility study at the request of Rathfern Community Regeneration Group to assess how the former children’s home could function as a social enterprise. However, this did not progress due to the imminent creation of the new supercouncil, and the refurbishment of the existing community centre went ahead instead.