Vacant Traveller hub site review

The former Traveller community facility at Ballyarnett has been vacant for the past two years.
The former Traveller community facility at Ballyarnett has been vacant for the past two years.
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The government have said they may step in to look at the bringing a former Derry community hub for the Travelling community back into use.

The building at the Ballyarnett site has now been vacant for over two years and there are fears that vandals may gain access to the interior.

Sinn Fein Councillor Tony Hassan this week told the Journal that something needs to be done about the site on the outskirts of the Greater Shantallow area.

Mr Hassan said that while there has been discussions about the future of the centre on several occasions, to date nothing has come out of this which would see a long-term resolution to bringing it back into use for the benefit of the local Travelling population, some of whom reside close by at the caravan site and residential complex.

He said: “This community centre has been lying dormant out here for two and a half years,”

“The DSD and Derry City Council should look at whether they can come to some agreement.

“They moved in at Curryneirin and took over the community facility there and I am making the call for them to come together to look at the possibility of taking this over too.

“Doing so would allow Travellers to be like everybody else in that they too can have a community centre. This is especially important and especially needed for the women and the children within the Travelling community.

“The fear is it is going to lie there and be vandalised. It has already been targeted on the outside and the fear is once they get into it, that that element could destroy it completely.

“It is ridiculous the building has been left like that. It is going to waste.

In replying to Mr Hassan’s concerns, a spokesperson for Derry City Council confirmed to the Journal that it owns the main building on the Ballyarnett site, which it sub-let to the Derry Travellers Support Group.

A spokeswoman said: “This arrangement is currently being reviewed following receipt of recent correspondence from the group. “

She went on to explain that responsibility for housing, including the provision of Traveller sites, was transferred to the Norther Ireland Housing Executive in December 2003.

“As part of this change,” she added “the Housing Executive is responsible for all assets and liabilities of Traveller sites, with the exception of the main building at Ballyarnett.

“Derry City Council has limited powers regarding the site and any change in responsibilities would require legislative change.

“Council is happy to work with the relevant bodies and agencies to look at reviewing usage of the building in question.”

The spokeswoman added that the council would be happy to discuss concerns with Colr. Hassan directly.

A Spokesperson for the Department for Social Development said: “Although the Department has no direct responsibility for the premises, officials would be happy to be part of discussions with any relevant parties about how to bring the building back into productive use.”