Residents of Kernan Gardens have reacted with anger to the news that the half-acre plot which they have fought to retain as green space has been sold by the government for potential housing.
A delegation of residents, accompanied by Ulster Unionist MLA Jo-Anne Dobson and Alderman Ken Twyble, recently explained their concerns to a planning official from Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon Borough Council.
Speaking afterwards, Mrs Dobson said, “The residents have been fighting hard to preserve this land for 15 years - a mass petition was formally lodged with Planning Service in 2002 – and their views have been completely cast aside and ignored.
“We met on site for what was a very detailed meeting where residents vented their anger over the sale of this land, raised concerns over the prevalence of bats and the fact that a wildlife rich area of land originally created as a play area for children was being effectively re-zoned for housing to the detriment of everyone in the Kernan area.”
Concerns were also expressed about the safety of opening another access point onto the already busy main Kernan Road.
Resident George Heak said, “Many of us have lived in this area since the houses were built in the 1970s. This was originally set aside as a children’s play area and by steamrollering ahead with the sale of the land the DSD have effectively sold off one of the last remaining green areas available to the children of Kernan Gardens and Kernan Close.”
Alderman Ken Twyble said, “I join with the residents in having major safety concerns about the possibility of a new vehicle entrance being opened up onto the Kernan Road as this is very busy main road which carries a large volume of traffic including emergency vehicles heading to and from Craigavon Area Hospital.” Ms Dobson said she will continue to demand answers from the DSD and Environment Ministers. She has written to them and will be furnishing them with copies of the 2002 petition.
A spokesperson for the Department for Social Development (DSD) said plans for the Kernan site will be a matter for the new owner.
A statement released by the department said, “The land in question, which is zoned as white land in the Craigavon Area Plan 2010, was deemed surplus and, in accordance with guidance published by DFP’s Land & Property Service’s Central Advisory Unit on the Disposal of Surplus Public Sector Property in Northern Ireland, was placed on the open market.
“An offer for the land has been accepted and the Department anticipates completion of the sale shortly.”
It added, “The future use of this site is a matter for the new owner and, if the site is to be developed, the planners of Armagh, Banbridge and Craigavon District Council.
“The potential purchaser has been made aware of the concerns of local residents.”