Tuesday, 1 June 2010

Constituency update

Good news regarding the dismantling of Mountpottinger Barracks.

The decrepit, dilapidated and redundant base has been closed for some months now but following a meeting with PSNI Chief Superintendant in East Belfast Alan McCrum, we now know that the dismantling of the base is scheduled for the end of August, beginning of September this year.

The news comes after I wrote to new DSD Minister Alex Attwood last week, urging him to now work towards the immediate acquirement of the vacant land for the development of social, family homes. I have blogged numerous times about Mountpottinger and all that it represents as well as the very practical reasons why it should go.

The reality of the situation is that Mountpottinger is costing over £100,000 every year; it is now my hope that the vast amount of money that will be saved as a result of the dismantling of this site can be redirected to tackling the scourge of drugs and anti-social behaviour, as well as other issues, in this part of east Belfast. I certainly commit myself to working with the PSNI and others to ensure that happens.

Also this week, we received news that Belfast City Council’s Community Safety Wardens will be entering this part of inner east Belfast at the beginning of June. The scheme will run for 3 months, a particularly apt time given our experience on the ground of having to deal with anti-social activity over the summer months.

I have further meetings arranged on this issue ahead of the scheme being rolled out.

As well as this, once again many residents affected by the anti social activity in the area have contacted me outlining their real need for alley-gating in various parts of the Short Strand. This is an issue I have lobbied on numerous times in the past, thus far the City Council have yet to heed the pleas of residents in streets like Beechfield Street or Madrid Street who are nightly effected by problems in the entries at the back of their homes. I have arranged further meetings with the Council on this matter (including a walkabout to the streets concerned) and remain positive that we can secure the much needed gates for the areas most affected.

I have been in touch with NIE about the future of the now redundant electric substation at Strand Close. They need to urgently secure the station and move towards demolishing it as soon as possible.

Sinn Féin are also opposing the planned development of 31 high-rise apartments on a small piece of land on the Mountpottinger Road.

You can keep up to date with all these issues here.

We’re also looking forward to meeting with Minister for Regional Development Conor Murphy who will be visiting the Strand very shortly. Conor is due to join us on a site visit to the Translink Bus Depot in the area to discuss the future of this site as well as meeting various community groups and reps to discuss issues around traffic calming and an important issue around the need for a pedestrian crossing at the bottom of the Newtonards Road.

Last week also saw the opening of 27 new apartments on the Short Strand. The units at Pottinger’s Quay were developed by Clanmil Housing Association but took a lot of work from many quarters, including Sinn Féin, the Short Strand Partnership, St Matthews Housing Association and others to actually see the much needed social housing realised! Its clear that the apartments themselves are first class and worthy of their riverside location, it is also good that families have been able to move in and set up home. Space on the ground floor will also developed into a child day care facility by the Short Strand Partnership Board so there remains exciting times ahead for this site.

Plans for marking the anniversary of the Battle of Saint Matthews are well underway and there’s a wonderful buzz around the area. An Tine Bheo memorial project is taking shape and is a the subject of many a conversation throughout the community. No doubt I will blog more on these issues closer to the time and certainly afterwards.

I joined hundreds of other Béal Feirste citizens at the City Hall yesterday to highlight our disgust at the brutal murder of activists bringing aid to Gaza by the Israeli state. The anger and sadness amongst the gathered crowd was palpable and the incident once again brings home the horror that is life for the besieged Palestinian people. Sinn Féin MLA’s secured a discussion about this issue under ‘matters of the day’ at the Assembly this morning. My thoughts are with them all and I hope those taking part in the aid Flotilla are able to safely break the illegal Israel siege and bring the much needed aid to the people of Gaza. It is hard not to despair and fear the worst at this time given the track record of oppression by the Israeli State. Following the last bombardment against Gaza Sinn Féin activists in the Short Strand took to the streets on what was a horrible, cold and wet night to raise funds for Medical Aid for Palestine; doing things like attending rallies, vigils, protests or raising money doesn't feel like enough.


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