Northern Ireland news

'No plans' to re-name Robinson Centre despite Belfast council policy

Former DUP leader Peter Robinson, and the old Robinson Centre which is being redeveloped by Belfast City Council
Brendan Hughes

BELFAST City Council says it has no plans to re-name a leisure centre named after former DUP leader Peter Robinson – despite it going against council policy.

The Robinson Centre site off Montgomery Road is currently being redeveloped into a new multi-million-pound leisure facility which is due to open in summer 2019.

The old building was named after Mr Robinson in the 1980s by Castlereagh Borough Council when he was a member of the council and MP for East Belfast.

It was transferred to Belfast City Council (BCC) in 2015 after the previous 26 local authorities were merged into 11 'supercouncils'.

In 2008, BCC adopted a policy on the naming or re-naming of parks and leisure facilities after people.

It states the person must be deceased for at least five years, unless they have made a significant financial contribution to the park or facility.

But in an email to SDLP campaigner Séamas de Faoite, the council has said there are "no proposals to change the name" of the Robinson Centre.

Asked what process will be used to decide the name of the new leisure centre before it reopens, BCC said: "This is not applicable as there are no proposals to change the name of the centre."

BCC also said in the Freedom of Information response that it does not plan to consult on the name of the facility before it reopens.

The Robinson Centre was closed in February 2015 due to health and safety concerns over asbestos. BCC later approved its demolition and the construction of a new leisure facility on the same site.

Mr de Faoite, a former East Belfast assembly candidate, said BCC has a "clear policy" and urged it to ensure the facility is re-named.

"No political party should be allowed to stake a claim on our civic space by naming it after its own members. There's no room for political ego-trips in 2018," he said.

"Our leisure facilities should be welcoming places for ratepayers of every background. This will be a busy centre at the heart of a rapidly growing and diversifying community in south-east Belfast. It's name should reflect that diversity.

"I have written to the council seeking assurances that the naming of the new centre will adhere to the policy agreed in 2008."

The naming policy on parks and leisure centres states that "where the request made is to memorialise a person", the person "must be deceased for a minimum of five years".

It is also "recommended" a living person's name is not used unless they or their family have "made a significant financial contribution to the improvement/development of the park or facility".

The policy also says names that are "party-political in intention or use" will not be considered.

It also says "existing names will not be changed without consideration of the historical significance of the existing name, the cost and impact of changing existing signs, rebuilding community recognition and updating records".

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