Brandywell promises must be kept - Eastwood

Aerial view of the Brandywell Sports Stadium.  Picture taken by Aveen Peoples. 3004Ap1

Aerial view of the Brandywell Sports Stadium. Picture taken by Aveen Peoples. 3004Ap1

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Funding commitments from Peter Robinson and Martin McGuinness to redevelop the Brandywell stadium in Derry must be kept, a Foyle MLA has said.

SDLP MLA Colum Eastwood was speaking after questioning the acting First Minister, Arlene Foster, on the status of Social Investment Fund money that has been earmarked for the upgrade of the historic ground.

The minister was unable to provide an update.

“It was announced in 2013 that Derry City Council had made a successful bid to the Social Investment Fund which would help finance the redevelopment of the Brandywell,” Mr Eastwood said. “

“However, two years have passed and our local council is still waiting on a formal offer of funding from Stormont to allow stadium improvements to begin.

“The cost of redeveloping the Brandywell is forecast at £6.2m with nearly £4.5m coming from local ratepayers. The remaining £1.7m has been promised by Martin McGuinness and Peter Robinson, we are waiting for that financial promise to be kept.”

The Foyle MLA said the lack of redevelopment at the ground “is a a source of great frustration for Derry City and its supporters.”

“Announcements have been made, start dates have come and gone, and still the stadium remains undeveloped. This must change. The financial package agreed by Stormont must be delivered to allow building work to begin.”

Mr Eastwood said the Brandywell Stadium should also benefit from a fund announced by Minister for Culture, Arts and Leisure Carál Ní Chuilín that will see £36m made available for sub-regional football stadiums between 2016 and 2018.

“The Brandywell Stadium should benefit from this new fund. It is unfair that over £100m is being spent developing stadiums in Belfast, while Derry has been promised less than £2m. The Executive has a duty to ensure that public money is allocated on fair basis to worthy projects across the North, it should not focus the vast majority of its spending in Belfast.

“We cannot allow local ratepayers to fund the lion’s share of the Brandywell upgrade while other stadiums receive massive amounts of financial support from the Executive,” he said.