DUP meeting to discuss nationalist homes was held in Belfast orange hall
FORMER DUP minister Nelson McCausland met housing association representatives in an Orange Order hall just weeks before plans to build homes in a nationalist area were withdrawn.
It is believed Mr McCausland, who was Housing Minister at the time, was accompanied at the meeting with Oaklee Homes by north Belfast MP Nigel Dodds and DUP councillor Brian Kingston.
It is understood plans to build homes close to the Stanhope Street/Clifton Street junction in nearby nationalist Carrick Hill were discussed at two meetings in Clifton Street Orange Hall in February 2014.
The landmark north Belfast Orange hall is just yards from the proposed building site.
At the time Mr McCausland was the Minister for Social Development and his department provided funding to housing associations.
During the first meeting the DUP delegation asked the then chairman of Oaklee to attend a second evening meeting at the same location several days later.
Oaklee had planned to build four semi-detached houses and six apartments close to Stanhope Street and Clifton Street – which leads from Belfast city centre to the Crumlin Road.
Several weeks after meeting with the DUP, the association withdrew the housing application.
In 2015 Oaklee merged with two other housing associations to form Choice Housing.
When asked to explain why the Stanhope Street application was withdrawn, Choice Housing last night declined to comment.
Choice Housing also refused to comment when asked if minutes of the meetings with the DUP representatives were taken.
Carrick Hill Residents Association spokesman Frank Dempsey last night voiced concerns about the meetings.
"Why were they talking about a housing development within a nationalists area?" he asked.
Mr Dempsey claims the decision to withdraw the application could be connected to a local parades dispute.
"It’s quiet clear from that meeting this was withdrawn under pressure to facilitate Orange marches coming down Clifton Street," he claimed.
A DUP spokesman said: "Elected representatives have a range of meetings with statutory agencies and groups on issues relating to their constituency. This is a normal part of constituency representation."
A spokesman for Choice Housing said: "As is standard practice, Choice Housing regularly meets with various local representatives to fulfil its community consultation obligations and explain its planning application."
The spokeswoman confirmed that meetings had taken place between representatives of Choice Housing and the DUP on two dates in February 2014.
“It is our policy not to comment on the attendance of specific representatives," she said.
A spokeswoman for the Department of Social Development said it has "no record of former DSD Minister Nelson McCausland attending or facilitating meetings with Oaklee Housing Association" on the dates the meetings took place.