by Alan Healy

Concerns have been raised after an education body charged Derry’s council £60,000 for two plots of land as part of an ambitious new greenway project planned for the Waterside area.

Plans for the Clooney Greenway were first unveiled in February 2010 as part of a major re-development project which included the construction of the new Foyle College and Ebrington Primary School (pictured) at a former army base on the Clooney Road.

The proposal also included a 1.75 mile landscaped pedestrian and cycle route to the rear of the school site, linking Kilfennan Valley Park, St Columb's Park, and the Peace Bridge at a cost of £1,564,800 (plus VAT).

The Department of Social Development (DSD) then asked whether the local council would take on the project management aspect of the proposed greenway on the premise that DSD would fund all aspects of the design and construction phases.

Council agreed to do so, but no funding was made available and the Clooney Greenway was then shelved.

However, the Clooney Greenway is now back on the council’s list of capital projects, and the project recently secured full planning permission.

A funding application and business case has also been lodged by Derry City and Strabane’s District Council with the Department for Communities (DfC) for £302,023, the outcome of which is pending.

At a meeting of the council’s Governance and Strategic Planning Committee earlier this week, where council approved the allocation of £61,400 for the purchase of the lands which would make up the Greenway Project.

Nominal fees

The meeting was provided with a breakdown of the cost of each of the six pieces of land paid for by the council to their respective owners.

Council paid £42,000 and £18,000 respectively for two plots of land, one located at Nelson Drive and another at Elder Crescent, which was owned by the Education Authority (EA).

A further sum of £1,400 was paid to the Northern Ireland Housing Executive (NIHE) for lands at Heron Way.

However, the Department for Communities (DfC) charged the council a nominal sum of £1 for lands at both Heron Way and Harkness Gardens, with council striking the same deal with Habinteg Housing Association for another plot of land at Harkness Gardens.

Speaking at the meeting, the Waterside DUP councillor Drew Thompson said he was ‘concerned’ that council paid £60,000 to the Education Authority (EA) given that the bulk of the other landowners involved had only asked for a nominal fee.

He then added that the Greenway project ‘needed to pushed forward to get it across the line’.

Responding, the council’s Chief Executive John Kelpie said that meetings had taken place with the DfC and that a report would be brought before a future meeting.

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