Council slaps brakes on Brandywell plans

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

The Council has slapped the brakes on plans to go to tender for the £6.25m redevelopment of the entire Brandywell site.

The move effectively stalls a decision taken earlier this month by the council’s own Health and Community Committee to press ahead with one of seven preferred options.

The final phase of the demolition of the Glentoran Stand, in Brandywell Stadium, was completed on Tuesday afternoon. DER41015GS023

The final phase of the demolition of the Glentoran Stand, in Brandywell Stadium, was completed on Tuesday afternoon. DER41015GS023

This option- Option Three- involved proceeding to tender for the entire project and a report on the different options brought before that committee had stated: “In theory Greyhound racing can take place seven days per week as it will not impact on the running of the football stadium (as it is now within the Showgrounds site).

“Any Greyhound operator will pay a proposed £55 per hour for the hire of the facility. These costs will help cover staff costs, electricity costs, maintenance costs and other operating costs associated with managing the facility.”

It was also agreed at the meeting that two further meetings should be held- a special council meeting to discuss outstanding issues, and a stakeholders meeting.

However Independent Councillor Paul Gallagher raised concerns that no special council meeting has been held and proposed an amendment.

To rounds of applause from the public gallery, he urged his Council colleagues to pass the first part of Option Three- going to tender for the entire project- but said they should not proceed with the remaining details regarding the dog track, as such matters needed to be re-examined.

Speaking at the meeting, Colr. Gallagher said he was aware that there could be legal implications if the council proceeded with Option Three as it stood, and that the council have received correspondence from solicitors to this effect. This was confirmed by a council officer.

Colr. Donnelly, who had aired concerns during the previous committee meeting, seconded the proposal.

Members of the local greyhound fraternity meanwhile, who have raised concerns over Option Three, packed into the lower public gallery and stood throughout the lengthy discussion, brandishing placards with slogans including ‘Save Our Dog Track’ and ‘50 Years of Heritage and Culture Destroyed’.

Sinn Fein Councillor Karina Carlin questioned whether any delay would affect funding for the Brandywell project?

Council Chief Executive John Kelpie said that an adjournment of “some short weeks” to allow for a special meeting should not jeopardise funding as far as he was aware at this stage.

Mr Kelpie however added: “My view on this is that this matter has been considered at length and the options have been considered at length by the Health and Community Committee and the recommendation is provided for you at this moment in time.”

Colr. Gallagher responded: “No disrespect to the Chief Executive but this issue has not been exhausted.”

DUP Councillor Drew Thompson said that the first four options that were tabled all involved proceeding to tender with the entire project, and warned that the council needed to be cautious in how it chose to proceed.

SDLP Councillor John Boyle tabled a different option that the council hold off on endorsing the entire Option Three until after the special meeting is held, advocating that that meeting takes place before Christmas.

He said: “We are of course concerned about the delays and the affect of these delays, however we did suggest we have a special council meeting where all options are considered in full, so everybody is under no illusions what we are talking about, but this can’t be allowed to continue and drag on and I would suggest that special meeting should convene as soon as possible.”

Mr Kelpie said that there was no impediment to hosting the meeting “as soon as diaries permit”.

Colr. Gallagher however argued: “We can proceed to tender, there’s no legal implications with that.”

However his initial amendment proposal, despite being backed by all other Independent Councillors, was rejected by the rest of the council, and Colr. Boyle’s proposal to defer the entire matter until after the special meeting was carried.

Earlier, and just prior to the meeting, representatives from the local greyhound fraternity staged a protest outside the Guildhall.

Dozens of men, women and children gathered to voice their concern over what Option Three would mean.

Daniel McLaughlin, whose family have run the greyhound racing at the Brandywell for decades said: “The issue we have with Option Three is that nobody understands what it means.”

He said that any questions they have posed have not been adequately answered.