23/05/2012

Housing Association Asked To Give Public Money Back

A social housing provider has been asked to return £835,000 of public funds after failing to get planning permission on a Co. Down site.

Belfast-based Trinity Housing Association bought half an acre of land in Crossgar in 2007, at the height of the property boom.

According to the BBC, the site earned former owner Inishmore Developments a profit of £185,000 - but five years on it is lying derelict and Housing Executive has asked for its money back.

Permission to build social housing on the site was granted and removed under the tenure of successive planning ministers.

In March 2011, then-minister Edwin Poots, DUP, recommended that an application by Trinity to develop the land should be approved.

But the current minister for planning, the SDLP's Alex Attwood, voided that decision just a few months later.

In defence of the reversal, he said: "All I have done is stick to the planning advice I have been given by the regional planner in the area and that advice is, the site is unsuitable for the type of social housing development that has been applied for."

But Trinity Housing responded that it was still seeking planning permission to develop at 19 Downpatrick Road, Crossgar and "could not see" why the Housing Executive would try to recover funds before a final decision had been made.

The Ulster Unionist Party's Dermot Nesbitt, a former environment minister and neighbour of the site, complained: "Tax payers' money has been sitting idle that could have been used by government and spent elsewhere."

(NE)

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