Michelle Weir (Local Democracy Reporter)
New Fire Station still in the pipeline for Ballymena
The Northern Ireland Fire and Rescue Service (NIFRS) has said a new station in the Ballymena area remains part of its 10-year plan.
Mid and East Antrim councillors agreed at a meeting behind closed doors last month to approve the retention of a portion of land for the future development of a new fire station but press ahead with the sale of three other plots on a site at Ballee in the town.
The council has approved the sale of adjacent plots of land covering seven acres at Ballee Road West at a total cost of more than £0.5m.
The sites are advertised as to “adjoin a proposed new DVA complex, the local Ambulance Service station and a site proposed for the Northern Ireland Fire and Rescue Service”.
However, a Department for Infrastructure spokesperson said:
“The DVA has no immediate plans to build a new test centre in Ballymena at this time.”
Previously, Northern Ireland Fire and Rescue Service (NIFRS) outlined plans for a new two-storey four appliance facility in the town to include a training tower, yard and car park. Currently, Ballymena Fire Station is located at Waveney Road.
Outline plans were submitted to the legacy Ballymena Council for the project at the playing fields on the town’s Antrim Road in 2010.
According to Mid and East Antrim minutes, council officers have been seeking an update on the intention of NIFRS to purchase and develop a portion of land at Ballee.
The meeting heard that the fire station plan is a “longstanding legacy issue”.
Concerns were raised at the meeting in relation to the importance of gaining assurances from the NIFRS with regard to progressing their previous commitment.
In response, the Acting Director of Corporate Services agreed to contact the organisation.
Knockagh Alliance councillor Alderman Noel Williams proposed an amendment to the officer’s recommendation “to determine the intention of NIFRS to proceed and that dual marketing be undertaken by the council”.
This proposal was seconded by Bannside TUV Councillor Timothy Gaston who “stressed the importance of gaining assurances from NIFRS and that council should consider all options to make the best decision in relation to potential development of this valuable piece of land”.
It was subsequently defeated by 19 votes to 17.
Further to a proposal by Braid DUP Councillor Beth Adger and party colleague Bannside councillor Alderman Tommy Nicholl, it was agreed to approve the retention of a portion of the land for future development by NIFRS.
There were no votes against but 16 abstentions and 20 in favour.
A spokesperson for Northern Ireland Fire and Rescue Service said:
“A new fire station in the Ballymena area is on our 10-year capital plan. We continue to engage with the council but we are at an early stage in the process.”