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The Executive Office says it remains 'fully committed' to regenerating Meenan Square site
6 Jun 2019
Local representatives have said that Bogside residents must be consulted prior to any redevelopment of a contentious site in the area. The vacant Meenan Square site has been steeped in controversy for a number of years due to persistent anti-social behaviour, illegal bonfires, and it was also at the centre of prolonged rioting last July. On 15 August 2018 poppy wreaths bearing the names of murdered police officers were also placed on a bonfire erected on the site. There are concerns moving into the summer months that a similar pattern of behaviour could emerge. The Urban Villages (UV) initiative had been planning to develop the site “for a range of purposes” - incorporating a community centre. However, an unknown purchaser bought the land and discussions have been ongoing since between the owner and UV to see if agreement can be reached with regards to future development. Overseen by The Executive Office (TEO), the UV initiative is designed to improve good relations outcomes and develop thriving places where there has been a history of deprivation and community tension. Derry City and Strabane District councillor for The Moor area Gary Donnelly said he has spoken to the new owners who are cooperative and "a lot more accountable" than the previous proprietor. Since purchasing the site, the new owners have made efforts to tidy it by securing the area and painting the building and railings. Cllr Donnelly insisted that residents living in the area should be consulted about any redevelopment proposals and as such any meetings should be open to the public. “At the minute that site is a magnet for anti-social behaviour, there’s the whole issue over bonfires and it’s an area that needs developed. “It’s not acceptable to allow it drag on and we need to see it developed.” Meanwhile, Eamonn McCann of People Before Profit said he would welcome any redevelopment of the site. “It's currently a danger to young people, an eyesore and, literally, a waste of space. "We think there needs to be local consultation on what to put there. In particular, with young people of the area who have been calling for a place they could run themselves for some time now. We support this." A spokesperson for The Executive Office said it remains “fully committed” to regenerating Meenan Square as a key priority of the Urban Villages Initiative in Derry. “Discussions with the new owner of the site in relation to the possible acquisition and development of the site are continuing. It is not possible to provide any more information at this stage," he added. Addressing the issue of bonfires, a spokesperson for Derry City and Strabane District Council explained that a cross-party bonfire working group including five Council Members was established in 2018. She added: “The group is currently working alongside a multi-agency partnership involving local statutory agencies and local communities to raise awareness and resolve a range of cultural and environmental issues around bonfires. “This work is assisted by the SEUPB Peace IV Community Engagement programme.”
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