Metropole Park not for sale

Councillors have voted against selling off four acres of Metropole Park, Portrush in a recorded vote, writes Gillian Anderson, Local Democracy Reporter.

Thursday, 6th May 2021, 10:11 am

There had been public outcry over concerns that the potential purchaser of the Dunluce Centre wanted the adjacent land as part of the deal.

The sale had previously been discussed ‘in committee’ however, UUP Alderman and Portrush resident Norman Hillis, had been pressing for the land sale to be heard in public.

Recently Dermot Nicholl, the Sinn Fein chair of the council’s Leisure and Development Committee, had denied Alderman Hillis’ request to openly discuss the possible sale of land at Metropole Park, Portrush.

Speaking at the full meeting of Causeway Coast and Glens Council. Alderman Hillis said: “Given the huge public interest in the disposal of half of Metropole Park, I request that this item, in particular the land section, is not heard in committee as it has already been discussed in open forum in Corporate Policy and Resources.”

Alliance Councillor Chris McCaw seconded the request.

Sinn Fein Councillor Dermot Nicholl asked for legal advice on Alderman Hillis’ request. Following the recess, Alderman Hillis was permitted to speak on the matter.

The Causeway DEA Alderman said: “There has been a tsunami of emails and phone calls concerning the possible sale of four acres of amenity land which is really half of our park, and I have to say I am 25 years in local government and I have never seen a reaction such as this. It has certainly touched a raw nerve.

“I propose that Causeway Coast & Glens Council does not accept the offer to purchase four acres of land adjacent to the Dunluce Centre, Portrush and that council agrees that this land is not for sale and should remain as amenity land for residents and visitors to Portrush.

“We know what the public have said, it’s now time to make up your mind.”

Cllr McCaw added: “I don’t think anyone can misunderstand what the feelings of the people of Portrush are with regards to the Dunluce Centre. They are pretty clear they want this to remain in public ownership.

“We can look at the proposal for the Dunluce Centre itself but not the land beside it. Metropole Park needs to remain in public ownership.”

DUP Alderman Sharon McKillop asked that it be put on record that “It was never known to members that up to four acres of land, green space would be sold along with the Dunluce Centre”.

SDLP Councillor Margaret Anne McKillop added her support to the proposal saying: “We have all been inundated with emails, you can hear and feel the concern of the people of Portrush and it’s up to us to support the people of Portrush.”

Independent Councillor Padraig McShane spoke about his “serious concerns” about the transactions of land in Causeway Coast and Glens saying; “All is not as it seems”.

“It’s another fine mess from Causeway Coast and Glens and the wool is being pulled over people’s eyes again,” he said.

Sinn Fein Councillor Leanne Peacock called for a recess before a recorded vote.

The proposal passed with 26 votes for and 9 abstentions.

For: DUP Councillor Anderson; UUP Alderman Baird; SDLP Councillor Beattie; Alliance Alderman Boyle; DUP Mayor Alderman Fielding; UUP Alderman Hillis; UUP Councillor Holmes; UUP Councillor Hunter; DUP Councillor Knight-McQuillan; DUP Councillor McAuley; Independent Councillor McCandless; Alliance Councillor McCaw; DUP Councillor McCorkell; UUP Alderman McKeown; SDLP Councillor MA McKillop; DUP Alderman S McKillop; DUP Councillor McClean; DUP Councillor McQuillan; Independent Councillor P McShane; Independent Councillor Mulholland; DUP Alderman Robinson; SDLP Councillor Schenning; DUP Councillor Scott; DUP Councillor Wallace; PUP Councillor Watton; UUP Councillor Wilson.

Abstain: Sinn Fein Councillor Bateson; Sinn Fein Councillor Chivers; Sinn Fein Councillor McGlinchey; Sinn Fein Councillor McGurk; Sinn Fein Councillor McLaughlin; Sinn Fein Councillor McMullan; Sinn Fein Councillor C McShane; Sinn Fein Councillor Nicholl; Sinn Fein Councillor Peacock.

Speaking after the vote Alderman Hillis said; “I am totally delighted that this crazy idea of selling off half of Metropole Park has been stopped dead in its tracks.

“Congratulations to the people of Portrush and perhaps wider afield. The people of Portrush have been up in arms about this. It’s a pure example of people power.

“None of us knew this was coming over the hill, we knew the Dunluce Centre was due to be sold but at no time did we know that anyone was looking for four acres. It nearly went through two weeks ago but once the main council make a decision then that’s it.

“I’ve been really stressed and concerned about this but now hopefully we have drawn a line under the sale of this land.”

As per council procedures, all decisions are subject to the ‘call in’ process.