Newtownabbey Borough Council is pushing ahead with plans to transform a vacant piece of land in the heart of the Rathfern estate.
The local authority has been keen to develop the site at Knockenagh Avenue for community use for some time. However, it has been unable to progress the project until ownership of the surplus land is transferred from the Housing Executive and the North Eastern Education and Library Board.
In December last year, the council wrote to the chief executives of the NIHE and NEELB to express concern at the continuing delay in resolving the land transfer issue. A letter has since been received from the Housing Executive confirming that internal approval for the disposal has been given.
It’s understood the Social Development Minister has approved the transfer of the land at no cost.
The council is now hoping for a similar decision from the Education Minister regarding transfer of the NEELB-owned land.
Monday night’s Development Committee meeting was informed that officers will now work on a design proposal for the land and present it along with indicative costs to a future committee meeting.
Welcoming progress on the matter at last, Alderman Thomas Hogg paid tribute to those who have worked hard on the issue, including his fellow Macedon councillors and party colleagues Paula Bradley MLA and Nigel Dodds MP.
Alderman Hogg claimed that the land, which has been the site of anti-social behaviour and fly-tipping over the years, has “blighted the Rathfern estate for decades.”
The DUP man said he is looking forward to seeing the site “transformed for the betterment of all of the community”, describing such an outcome as “a legacy all councillors in Macedon can be proud of.”
Welcoming the progress towards the acquisition of the land, North Belfast MP Nigel Dodds said: “Following a number of meetings with the Minister for Social Development, Mervyn Storey, I am delighted that he has now signed off on transferring the Northern Ireland Housing Executive’s portion of the land to Newtownabbey Borough Council at no cost.
“This a major step forward in the proposed redevelopment of this land, however it is still being held up by the Education and Library Board, who also own a portion of the land.
“I have written to Education Minister, John O’Dowd to ask him to expedite this process, in order to allow this land to be redeveloped.”