The decision by the new “super” council to agree to the addition of a gun club in the new Bangor Community Centre is socially, morally and economically wrong.
On 8th January the new “super”council supported the decision to add a gun club to the basement of the new Community Centre at Hamilton Road Bangor. The community Centre was approved by North Down Council in April 2012 at a cost of £1.23million. However in 2013 the Unionists proposed adding the gun club and this decision was endorsed by the new council at its January meeting.
The updated cost is £2.22m which means that the addition of the gun club and the delay has cost the ratepayers of North Down £1million.
In deciding to rubber stamp North Down Council’s decision the new council ignored the two petitions signed by more than a thousand North Down residents and a report from the local government auditor criticising the economic appraisal and highlighting a failure to follow good practice.
I believe this decision reflects very badly on the credibility of the new council and its priorities at this time of massive cuts in public services.
I was extremely disappointed that there was no opposition to this waste of public money and in particular Green Party and Alliance councillors who had previously spoken against it failed to vote against it at the Council meeting.
Background to the Gun Club
In 1970 following the disbandment of the B Specials the Bangor Borough Council gave permission for the Clandeboye and District Ulster Special Constabulary pistol and rifle club to set up a shooting range in the basement of the borough gymnasium.
This was renewed on a number of occasions but in 2009 at the termination of the lease the club was given a notice to Qquit as the council wished to demolish the gymnasium to provide a new community centre. The club was told it would need to obtain alternative premises.
April 2012 Council agreed to build a new Community Centre on Hamilton Road to replace Hamilton House and provide facilities for CAB. Estimated Cost £1.232 million
June 2013 Council agenda contains revised plans to add a gun club to the basement of centre– supported by Unionist Councillors.
A 22 page economic appraisal was also presented. A proposal that any decision be deferred for a month to enable councillors to examine the economic appraisal was rejected and the Council voted to add the gun club by 14 votes to 4. The Local Government Auditor later criticised this decision as failure to follow good practice.-Councillors voting on an issue without being able to read the EA.
Two on-line petitions were organised “Stop the Gun Club” and “Bangor Residents Against the Gun Club” and achieved over 1000 signatures despite minimal press exposure.
The Local Government Auditors investigated the decision and expressed concern at the quality of the economic appraisal and the failure to follow good practice but the the Council did not respond to the criticism contained in the LGA report.
On 25th November 2014 the North Down council received the tenders for the New Community Centre plus Gun Club and approved the recommendation that the budget be increased to £2.225million. This was £1 million above the original estimate for the Community Centre without the gun club. Therefore the addition of the gun club and subsequent delay has almost doubled the cost of the new centre
On 8th January 2015 the New Council rubber stamped this decision without any opposition even from Green and Alliance councillors who had previously claimed to be against it.
Some councillors have suggested that the new facility / projectile range will not be run by the present tenants. The plans for the projectile range/gun club were drawn up to meet the specifications of the gun club and the club has had the full support of all the unionist councillors. Indeed the DUP who control the council have repeatedly stated that the council has an obligation to the club. To suggest the management will be given to any other body is extremely naïve.