Slow progress at mostly vacant Fort George ‘unacceptable’ says Sinéad McLaughlin remarking that landmark site was transferred in 2004

The slow pace of development at the landmark Fort George site is ‘unacceptable’ and quicker progress is vital for the city, an MLA has claimed.

Friday, 21st May 2021, 11:26 am
Sinéad McLaughlin

SDLP MLA Sinéad McLaughlin raised the issue with the Minister for Communities, complaining most of the former British Army base remains vacant and unused 19 years after its transfer to the Executive.

“We saw the exciting ‘mini Manhattan’ plans brought forward by Ilex many years ago. Yet all we have seen on the site is one Catalyst building, a telehouse and now a stacking land for access to McDonald’s. I am not criticising any of those uses, but it is a very far cry from what this city expected on the site. While a medical hub has now been approved, it is likely to take several years before it is built and completed - and will occupy part of the site.

“The simple truth is that if government had been serious about the regeneration of Derry, progress would have been much faster than this. Decontamination of Fort George took an amazingly long time. Now we have the blockage because of the fears around the flooding risk from the Creggan reservoirs. It is now 18 months since that flooding risk was identified and yet progress again is much too slow. If there is a real flooding risk that potentially affects Fort George, Strand Road and Buncrana Road, as well as the land in between from Creggan reservoirs, then it is absolutely essential that officials from government and council act with the utmost urgency to take action to strengthen the reservoirs. These delays are completely unacceptable.”

Communities Minister Deirdre Hargey, when asked about the slow progress, said: “Although my Department purchased the site in 2004 there have been many barriers to its redevelopment including decontamination, the surrounding road infrastructure and, more recently, planning issues around the Creggan Reservoir. Remediation work completed in April 2019 and I recently agreed to dispose of part of the site for the Cityside Health and Care centre. I am committed to addressing the remaining barriers, in partnership with DfI.”