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Residents say they will continue to oppose council 'landgrab' plans

Homes Now protest outside Belfast City Hall Picture by Hugh Russell.

Residents of the Markets area of south Belfast have held a protest at Belfast City Council's plans to allow the expansion of a hotel chain and office block on land previously zoned for housing.

The protest by the was organised by the Homes Now campaign group, after the Radisson Blu Hotel, that already occupies a part of the former Gasworks site announced a planned expansion, there are also plans to develop an office block and a multi storey carpark on the site.

Consultation on housing at the former site of Belfast's Gasworks started back in 2005.

Sinn Féin, have opposed the plans to abandon housing in favour of the multi million pound commercial development, pointing out that 88 families were in housing distress on the waiting list for properties in the area.

Sinn Féin councillor Deirdre Hargey said the council had failed in their commitment to deliver homes on the "Gasworks Northern Fringe".

Adding that the area was zoned exclusively for housing in an area of critical housing stress.

"The Housing Executive, the local community and indeed Sinn Féin believe that no planning should have been agreed until a masterplan for the site was agreed showing the amount of housing units to be included.

"Council again failed and forced through the masterplan with no commitment to housing on the site.

"This at a time when under their Belfast agenda they say they want to grow the population by 70k and increase the amount of social and affordable housing, yet they change land zoned for housing for an office block in an area of critical housing need.

"This is simply a land grab and a reverse Robin Hood where housing and communities come secondary to developers and private interests and more shocking that this has happened on public land.

"Housing creates jobs and meets a social need. We demand their right to have homes delivered on land zoned for housing and this should not be an afterthought", she added.

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