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Holmes backs Council’s retention of Dunluce Centre site.

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Councillors attending this month’s full meeting of Causeway Coast and Glens Borough Council on Tuesday night were called to to debate the future of the Dunluce Centre in Portrush.

The topic was raised by the DUP’s Councillor George Duddy who called for Council to fully investigate the possibility of giving the site to Mill Strand Integrated Primary School

The UUP’s Councillor Richard Holmes had this to say on the matter:

“There can be no doubt that Mill Strand is in dire need of a new build. I’m sure everyone would agree with that.”

“Quality of the education at the school, dedication of the head master, teachers and parents is a perfect example to us all.”

“As a council we have to bring this back to the core issue which is the Dunluce Centre Site.”

“Do we want to let this site go or hold onto it? That’s the only question that has to be answered.”

“Portrush is a jewel in the crown of NI tourism and we have a statutory responsibility as Cllrs to promote the economic development of our area.”

“Within Portrush there are key strategic sites such as the two strands, Barry’s and station square area, the harbour, Ramore and Dunluce site – most of which are within our control.”

“We have to ensure that Portrush remains a key destination within NI and the Dunluce site gives us open space with development potential for leisure and tourism at any stage in the future. That’s what we’re responsible for.”

“I’ve thought long and hard about the use of this site since the issue came up and we met with the school.”

“Cllr Duddy’s motion wants council officers to fully investigate the possibilities for the school. Do our officers have time to be running a full blown appraisal on behalf of the school in relation to this site? Would we be doing a full blown appraisal for a private sector company wanting to use the site? A full blown appraisal is the responsibility of the department of education.”

“Has anyone here actually thought through the ramifications of a decision to move forward with a twin track approach around L&D options alongside an option to release the land?”

“The first step is to set aside the Council’s own Portrush Regeneration Strategy and our own Northern Area Plan which as a council we can do. This comes back to the crux of the matter which is: do we want to release this site?”

“We can set these plans aside and the Minister may well agree with us. What then? A surplus asset goes into public clearing and the school can bid – alongside housing associations wanting to build social housing. HA’s have money to spend and may well outbid a school in the future. We’ll be feeling pretty stupid if that happens. We have to understand the consequences of our decisions here.”

“It should be noted that the only input council has here is to decide to set aside the PRG strategy and Northern Area Plan and then to release it through public clearing. That is the sum total of the decisions we have to take.”

“I am happy to hold this as a strategic asset for the next 100 years and would not hand the site over whether it is for a school , health centre, Police training college or whatever.”

“The site is strategically important to this council and Portrush for economic development. We need to hold out for the right development plan whether that be next year, five years or in ten years time. We don’t want another Dunluce Centre. In the meantime we have a great green open space in the heart of the town.”

“I think some Cllrs are happy to string the school along in the hope that they get fed up waiting, or that we can blame council officers or that we can blame Stormont for lack of progress.”

“It is easy as elected politicians to take the short term populist view. It is difficult to take long term strategic views. But we have to do what is right, not just what is popular. On this occasion I take the view that we hold onto this gateway site as a catalyst for economic development and do everything we can to help and facilitate the school with other sites in the town.”

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