Future of Social Centre still in the air

Eward Street Social Centre.
Eward Street Social Centre.

Edward Street Social Club in Ballymoney is facing an uncertain future with a lengthy repair bill, and uncertainties over the building’s ownership.

Causeway Coast and Glens Borough Council is attempting to get to the bottom of the ownership issues surrounding the Centre, before deciding whether to embark on a repair programme that could cost as much as £350,000.

Ballymoney DUP councillor Ian Stevenson told last Tuesday’s meeting that he had attempted to get to the bottom of the ownership issue himself, but had come up short.

“I have been to the public records office in Belfast, I’ve been to NICVA, I have been to registry of deeds and Land and Property Services, and other people who have an interest in Edward Street Social Centre.

“I did come across minutes from 1983, November - it does say that the premises would be given to council free of charge.

“At this moment in time I cannot find the detail of what the Council solicitors did.

“If help could be given to try and find how this was progressed, that would be of use,” he said.

“Could I assure you that from talking to people who use the facilities on Edward Street, they do not want to go anywhere else.

“They have a very strong connection to the Edward Street Social Centre. It is not just one group.

“There is a belief, rightly or wrongly, that Council is going in the direction that this building will be closed.”

The DUP man went on to ask why Council had been spending time on finding out what work needed done on the Centre when they might not have any authority over it.

Responding, Council’s Corporate Director of Leisure Services, Richard Baker said: “This committee instructed officers to undertake a survey of community facilities in Ballymoney.

“In that report it was confirmed, objectively, that there was an over-provision of community facilities in Ballymoney based upon the criteria that was set.

“The decision that Council makes, must be based upon that evidence-based approach.

“We are talking about a significant amount of money for refurbishment - £350,000.”

The Council officer added: “The title deeds show that it is owned, on paper anyway, by what was known as the NI Council for Social Care.

“They bought the site from a Mrs Martin.

“There was a declaration of trust with the Evergreen Club.

“Then in 1964, members of the Club obtained a mortgage on the site, and I am assuming that the building was then built with the proceeds of that mortgage fund. There doesn’t seem to be any other legal documentation after 1964.”

Independent Councillor David Harding said: “Perhaps the easiest solution is to register our interest.

“It costs £400, and the if people come out of the woodwork to challenge it, so be it.”

Deputy Mayor, UUP councillor Daryl Wilson said it was important that Council speaks to all stakeholders involved in the Centre.

Councillors agreed to a proposal to attempt to resolve ownership issues before deciding whether to go ahead with a repair programme.