The old Down District Council building will be demolished.
That was the proposal put to the Council Policy and Resources Committee last night ( Monday 4 February.) A tender document is to be drawn up and the former council building will be cleared from the site later this year.
Councillor Cadogan Enright proposed, seconded by Councillor Terry Andrews, that the premises demolition went out to tender.
Marie Ward, Chief Building Control officer, explained: “The Building Control offices are still located there at the rear of the old building and the Council garages too will be left. The building alarms are still functioning and the CCTV is also on so that should be a big deterrent to any person entering the old offices area. But I would add that demand is not great in the market at the moment for land.” Also, she reported that the sale of the old Council furniture from the Strangford Road premises was taking place at an auction on Wednesday evening and that already a substantial amount of furniture etc had been re-used.
John Dumigan, Council Chief Executive, explained that the Council has had discussions with the Planning Service and their preferred option is to use the site for housing as it is adjacent to a residential area. He added that local people in the Strangford Road area have been concerned that the old building may fall into the hands of vandals and be subject to anti-social behaviour.
Councillor Eamonn Mac Con Midhe said: “We don’t want to see a shopping centre on the site. That would not be in keeping with the area. This land property certainly needs to be sold at the going rate.”
Councillor Terry Andrews said: “The site certainly needs to be cleared and we should hopefully get a good return on the sale of the land and it should be put to good use in keeping with the locality.”
However, Councillor William Dick raised the issue that the site may also be an option for the new build for Down High School which was recently awarded capital funding for a new school in Downpatrick. Marie Ward explained that discussions had been ongoing also with the South Eastern Education and Library Board regarding the possibility of use of the site for this purpose.
Councillors generally were concerned about the vacant building being subject to vandalism and possible arson in the wake of a series of fires which destroyed the former St John’s Residential Home and Pound Lane Clinic in Downpatrick and repeated looting and vandalism taking place at the old Down Hospital and the general consensus was that the old building was a potential risk to the area while it lay vacant.