MID & East Antrim Borough Council has agreed to sell land at Ballee Playing Fields in Ballymena which has been regularly used as the venue where the Orange Order parade to on July 12.
A Twelfth of July parade is held in Ballymena every year. Last year Orange Order members marched to the Galgorm district and in 2018 the destination was Wakehurst Playing Fields in Ballymena.
However, Ballee Playing Fields have frequently played host to the Order.
The minutes of the behind-closed-doors section of the main Council meeting in February which are now in the public domain reveal a council officer reminded councillors of a discussion held on the matter back in December with regard to the sale of land at Ballee.
The minutes state: ‘Members had raised a number of questions and it had been agreed that officers would bring back further information’.
The minutes say the council officer ‘guided members through the issues previously raised, providing comprehensive detail including the vision for the site, proposed layout, size and valuation’.
Alderman Tommy Nicholl MBE (DUP, Bannside) spoke in support of the recommendation contained within the report regarding the sale but ‘expressed the need for consideration to be given to the requirement of a facility for use during the 12th July celebrations’.
Minutes of discussion of the issue show that Cllr Keith Turner (Ulster Unionist, Larne Lough) ‘sought and received clarification in respect of acreage and the cost of the land’.
Alderman William McNeilly (Ulster Unionist, Bannside) ‘expressed his disappointment that the annual Traction Engine Club event would have to be relocated from 2021.’
The minutes state: ‘Discussion ensued, following which Ms (Anne) Donaghy (Chief Executive) confirmed that consideration would be given, in due course, to the use of the remaining land.
‘On the proposal of Ald Nicholl, seconded by Cllr (Thomas) Gordon (DUP, Bannside) it was agreed that Council sells the lands at Ballee Playing Fields, Ballee Road West, Ballymena, as outlined by a blue dashed line on the circulated map in Appendix 1 of the Report, on the following terms:
‘(i) Purchase price as detailed within the circulated report.
(ii) The new road, as proposed, to be built to an adoptable standard and in place prior to works commencing on the lands transferred.
(iii) If lands transferred prior to July 2020 the purchaser to allow the Traction Engine Club event to proceed in July 2020.
(iv) Council to seek to provide the other annual events on adjoining land or identify alternative space within the Borough.
(v) Council officers to consider further whether or not four entrance openings along the spine road, the ‘T’ junctions coloured pink on the map at Appendix 1 of the Report were required and
(vi) The Mayor (Cllr Maureen Morrow, Ulster Unionist Party, Coast Road) and Chief Executive to seal the contract and transfer deed on behalf of Council.’
The minutes show Cllr Turner and Ald McNeilly ‘wished to be recorded as being against the proposal’.