Kernan residents in land battle

Councillor Kenneth Twyble at the site in Kernan.
Councillor Kenneth Twyble at the site in Kernan.

Kernan Gardens residents are hoping that it’s third time lucky as they launch a campaign to prevent a piece of “precious open land” being sold off to developers.

The land, around one acre, is sandwiched between two groups of homes at Kernan Gardens and this week, a ‘For Sale’ sign was erected for the third time.

It seemed in 2002 that a permanent ban had been placed on the DSD sell-off when then Upper Bann MP David Trimble intervened along with the community.

Last year the land was placed on the market again, and the community managed to have it placed on hold.

“It seems the Assembly never gives up in its bid for short-terms gains,” said Councillor Kenneth Twyble. “This time, they are trying to sell it in two lots.

“I am calling on Mervyn Storey, Minister for the Department for Social Development, to halt the sale. It has been found to contain an ancient fort, and should development take place, archaeologists would insist on carrying out excavations.

“Back in September the Historic Division of the Northern Ireland Environment Agency advised the council that they held an 1862 map which clearly marks a fort on this site. The DoE have made it very clear that if any development were proposed, they would ask for some form of excavation to establish if there were any remains of the old fort.

“However, if the site continues to be used as open space, as I have suggested, then they would not ask for anything unless there was going to be associated ground disturbance. This is a precious oasis of open land which truly enhances the area.”

A DSD spokesperson said, “We can confirm that the land at Kernan Gardens is currently on the market for sale as the land is surplus to DSD regeneration requirements. Active marketing of the site had been suspended to facilitate negotiations with the council who had expressed an interest in buying it. With the council’s interest now having been withdrawn, marketing will continue.

“The area of historical interest does not lie within the area of land for sale. Residents’ concerns regarding the potential future use of the land would be considered as part of any planning application, subject to the land being sold.”