Ulster Unionist housing spokesperson Michael Copeland has said that he accepts the reality which shaped the Girdwood decision but has questioned the Alliance Party’s negativity in relation to the matter.
The Belfast MLA described the publication of the Girdwood Barracks regeneration plan as ‘a regretful acknowledgement to reality’.
Michael Copeland said;
I do however take issue with the Alliance Party’s position that the open space will divide people. In fairness to them that has been the experience at the Mountpottinger green in East Belfast which was initially envisaged as a space where ‘both sides’ could meet on neutral ground for the purpose of sport and recreation. However, the area was never truly developed, nor properly managed and is now seen as almost exclusively in the ownership of the Nationalist community.
Girdwood is without doubt different given the 27 available acres, contrary to the position of the Alliance Party, I do believe that properly designed the open space could provide – assuming it is properly managed and designed – the neutral environment necessary for the normalisation of community relations and the development of trust. The design process could also, if properly approached, contain potential for a phased increase of the social housing units available, to address and target need and to take account of improving community relations.
The Alliance Party position that the open space at Girdwood will divide residents is I think alarmingly dismal given the genuine progress in many areas of the city. The truth is however, a family in need of housing is a family in need of housing no matter what their religious or political beliefs.