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Former jail in Derry to be converted into offices

New change of use for Ebrington building approved by local council

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A former jail at the Ebrington site is to be converted into offices.

A former jail at the Ebrington military base in Derry is to be turned into offices.

Planning permission was today granted for the change of use for the building from a guardhouse and jail to offices.

The property in question is Building 10a at Ebrington Square.

There has been much debate in recent years over the development of the Ebrington site.

Seen as one of the key development sites in the city, there has been criticism of the pace at which the regeneration of the area has proceeded.

However, today's news will be welcomed by those who wish to see new life being brought into Ebrington Square.

The applicant behind the plans for the former jail building is HR Team Limited which is based at the Catalyst Inc building at Bay Road in Derry.

Their application for the Ebrington building today came before a meeting of Derry City and Strabane District Council's Planning Committee.

A planning officer outlined the details of the new office plans and said they were content that the historic fabric of the listed building would be protected through the change of us.

Therefore, the recommendation from the council's planning department was for the application to be approved.

However, the final say on any planning application rests with councillors on the council's Planning Committee.

Speaking at today's meeting, DUP Alderman Hilary McClintock said that she often felt a 'sense of disappointment' when applications came before the committee in relation to Ebrington because she said they were 'not meeting the aspirations' of many people in the city.

“We are losing a lot of the historical value (of the Ebrington site). We are losing something by giving this over to office space,” she said.

“Though, I know we have to look at the planning applications as they come before us but the aspiration of so many people would have been that Ebrington would have been an opportunity to create a tourist/historical quarter for the city and I think that isn't being realised.

“But we are where we are and we have to deal with the applications as they come before us.”

As a result, Alderman McClintock said she would be 'reluctantly' lending her support to the application for a change of use for the former jail building.

“At the moment, we are desperate to get footfall and to get the buildings occupied but in normal times it would not have been my preferred option to hand over an historic building for office use.”

Alliance councillor Philip McKinney questioned whether the historical features within the former jail building would be altered as a result of the change of use.

In response, a council planning officer said it was a listed building and that as such any changes had been viewed as 'acceptable' to protect the historical integrity of the building.

He added that any changes made would be 'reversible' if any other use for the building came along at a later date.

SDLP councillor Sean Mooney said he was glad to hear that the historic fabric of the building would be protected.

Based on that, Cllr Mooney said he was happy to propose that the planning application be approved.

Sinn Fein councillor Christopher Jackson highlighted how other historic buildings on the Ebrington site had been put to different use whilst protecting the history of the properties.

He said it was 'encouraging' to see applications come forward for the Ebrington site which, he said, was of such importance to the Waterside area as well as the city centre.

“I don't think anything is lost by the development and these buildings being used in a positive sense,” he said.

The proposal to grant planning permission for the change of use for the Ebrington building was passed unanimously at today's meeting.

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