Ritchie urges MOD not to demolish homes at base

Ritchie urges MOD not to demolish homes at base

15 March 2017

A FRESH appeal has been made for the Ministry of Defence to review its controversial decision to bulldoze 200 homes at Ballykinlar army base.

Military chiefs have to date rejected suggestions they make a range of three and four bedroom homes formerly occupied by officers, soldiers and their families available to help ease the district’s social housing shortage.

The homes at the Abercorn Barracks complex have been lying empty since 2 Rifles moved from Ballykinlar to Thiepval Barracks in Lisburn over two years ago.

While part of the Ballykinlar base continues to be used by the police and army and other members of the emergency services for training, the homes are in a separate part of the expansive complex but army chiefs say they will be bulldozed for “operational reasons.” No timescale for the demolition work has been confirmed.

South Down MP Margaret Ritchie — who believes the army homes could be developed for the benefit of the local community — raised the issue with MoD Minister Mark Lancaster on Monday afternoon during Defence Questions at the Houses of Parliament.

Miss Ritchie, who also had a meeting with Mr Lancaster in Westminster last week to discuss the issue, believes the development of the former military homes has the potential to bring economic benefit to the area.

The MP said the Defence Minister is to make a formal response in writing to her which she hopes to receive shortly.

Miss Ritchie revealed she is aware that local developers would be keen to take on the homes at Ballykinlar, suggesting this could potentially be done in partnership with a social housing provider or on a private basis.

The MP said she is keen for the MoD to review the decision to raze the former army homes to the ground, urging army chiefs to consider the needs of the local community.