Transfer of former Ministry of Defence houses on hold

DUP councillors Jonathan Craig and Scott Carson want to see the former MoD houses refurbished as soon as possible
DUP councillors Jonathan Craig and Scott Carson want to see the former MoD houses refurbished as soon as possible

The Department for Communities has said it is considering how it can proceed with the transfer of nearly 60 former Ministry of Defence (MoD) homes to a housing association, without the approval of a Stormont minister.

A business case for the transfer of the 59 disused properties at Mountview Drive and Skyline Drive in Lisburn was approved a number of weeks ago, but the handover has still not taken place.

Clanmil Housing Group, supported by local political representatives, have been trying to secure the transfer of the houses – thought to be worth around £5 million – for well over a year.

The housing association has plans to refurbish the properties, many of which have been vandalised, and bring them back into use as social and affordable housing.

The News Letter asked the department if the ongoing legal case over the Hightown waste incinerator project, and the questions it has raised about the ability of senior civil servants to make decisions in the absence of ministers, had meant the transfer has been put on hold.

In response, a spokesperson for the Department for Communities said: “A business case for the transfer of the former MoD homes has been approved by officials. We are now considering how the transfer could proceed in the absence of ministers and a functioning Assembly.”

Local DUP councillor Jonathan Craig described the latest hold up as “deeply disappointing”.

“I fully understand civil servants’ hands being tied when it comes to controversial decisions, but this is in no way a controversial decision. There is an agreed way forward here, agreed by the local community and all political parties.”

A spokesperson for Clanmil Housing said: “We understand that the business case in relation to the transfer of the properties has now been approved.

“While we have not been formally notified of this, we have been actively working with the department in recent weeks to progress the legal transfer of the properties.

“We hope the homes will be in our ownership by the summer, allowing us to award a construction contract.

“We are looking forward to starting the necessary refurbishment works to bring these properties back into use as much-needed social and affordable homes.”

Formerly accommodation for Army personnel, the houses were declared surplus to requirements by the MoD and transferred to the department in January 2017.