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Council ‘call-in’ over proposed purchase of Carrickfergus Pigeon Club building

Mid and East Antrim Borough Council has been challenged over a proposal regarding the future of the Carrickfergus Pigeon Club building.

The local authority has been considering the purchase of the two-storey building at Shaftesbury Drive, off North Road, which is on the market for £80,000.

The council has also expressed an interest in adjacent land.

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It was agreed behind closed doors at a meeting of the council’s Policy and Resources Committee in January that officers should “investigate potential rental income for the building” and the view of the current tenant.

Carrickfergus Pigeon Club building. Pic Google

Minutes of the meeting said that a number of councillors were of the view that further information was required regarding potential rental income if the council purchased and leased the building.

The premises is currently leased by Carrickfergus Men’s Shed.

In 2018, the Shed group secured a five-year lease at Carrickfergus & District Pigeon Club, moving into the building the following year following extensive refurbishment. The ground floor of the building has work rooms, kitchen area and toilets and the upstairs has office space and a bar area.

The group has received funding from Mid and East Antrim Borough Council, Big Lottery Fund and Peace IV.

At a meeting of the council’s Policy and Resources Committee in February, it was agreed in confidence that discussions should continue with Carrickfergus Men’s Shed in respect of the pigeon club on the proposal of Larne Lough Alliance Councillor Danny Donnelly, seconded by Coast Road Sinn Fein Councillor James McKeown. They also sought a written report to update members.

Councillors have since been advised that a “call-in” was received by the local authority’s former interim chief executive on March 1 in relation to the proposed purchase of the Pigeon Club building.

It is believed to have been lodged by the DUP and has halted council plans pending legal intervention.

A call-in provides a mechanism for councillors to challenge a decision made by a local authority.

Mid and East Antrim councillors were informed that the call-in was deemed admissible after receiving support of at least 15 per cent of elected members.

They were also told that legal advice is being obtained by a barrister who would confirm if the call-in had merit and if the “decision” regarding the pigeon club building had been reached after “proper consideration”of the relevant facts and issues and if it would “adversely affect” any section of the community.

Fred Berry, founder of Carrickfergus Men’s Shed, said: “The premises means a lot to the group. There are some people who just come down for the craic and enjoy the chat and the company.

“Some people are learning new skiils. There are a lot of people who really enjoy it.”

Mr Berry went on to say that its location is “ideal”,  situated just a few minutes walk from the railway station which he said suits participants travelling from Whitehead, Greenisland and Larne.

However, the call-in means that the Shed group has been left “in limbo” regarding its longterm future at Shaftesbury Drive.

A further report is to be brought back to councillors after legal opinion is received.

Michelle Weir, Local Democrary Reporter

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