A long running dispute between residents on a West Belfast housing estate and a nearby school over a community field has come to end with the help of Unite Community.
Residents kept vigil over Glassmullin green to prevent a building site from being set up for two months before the agreement ended the six year row over how the land should be used.
The deal, between the residents – who were fighting to prevent the field being turned into a for-profit 3G football pitch and car park – and De La Salle College, was struck last week.
Unite Community coordinator Albert Hewitt said, “The proposed football pitch will go ahead but will not include the floodlighting and private pricing that were stiffly resisted by residents.
“Nine car parking spaces for residents will be retained and hardstanding will be removed from plans leaving the area grassed. The pavilion included in the plans will also be significantly reduced in size.
“All in all, this represents a very considerable compromise from the side of the developers and this has been agreed by the overwhelming majority of local residents.”
Resident and Unite Community member Catherine King, 66, was one of those standing guard at the green with a whistle to alert other residents when UniteLive visited two weeks ago.
“I’ve been 65 years in this street. My sister was the first baby born on here. We’ve grown up here and it’s our community’s land,” King explained.
“We were around when the green was used as a British Army camp known as Silver City. The community was prevented from using it then… and if our grandkids want to use it they’ll have to pay to use it under these plans.”
She added, “Unite Community has been very supportive. The union provided us with banners, leaflets and legal advice when everybody else was just ignoring us.”
On the day UniteLive visited Glassmullin, a lorry carrying fencing that was to be used to seal off the green so that construction could start, as well as other work vehicles, arrived.
A group of around ten residents, many of them older women, began blowing whistles and standing in front of the vehicles to block their path.
Speaking after the agreement had been reached, Hewitt said the union was “hopeful that today’s agreement reached by representatives of the local community and De La Salle school will provide a new beginning to relations between both sides and will ensure that development at Glassmullin green delivers for everyone”.
A committee comprising of seven people made of local residents, school representatives and an independent chair will now be established to manage the facility.