A derelict former stroke centre that was almost completely destroyed by a fire, thought by police to have been started deliberately, was on the cusp of being sold, according to a local UUP Councillor.
Nearly 20 fire-fighters using four fire engines spent around eight hours to bring the blaze under control on Tuesday night.
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The building itself had been derelict for some time, UUP Councillor Jim Rodgers told the News Letter.
Named after a former Deputy Lord Mayor of Belfast, the centre was used to treat people recovering from strokes, according to Mr Rodgers.
“The Joss Cardwell Centre hasn’t been used for some time,” he said. “It was used by the health service. People who were recovering from strokes would have went there. I understand that it was close to being sold and that some organisations had expressed interest in taking it over.
“It wasn’t going to be used for housing as far as I understand it, there was going to be a building at the site.”
He continued: “The fire and rescue service were there in large numbers and they have already been tied up across Northern Ireland with gorse fires and yet again they have risked life and limb to damp down the flames.
“The smoke has travelled over a wide area and that’s never good for people who have chest problems.
“It’s in a quite prominent location on the junction between the Holywood Road and the Circular Road and I’ll be making representations to have that site cleared as quickly as possible.”
Mr Rodgers explained who Joss Cardwell was and why the centre was named after him, saying: “Joss Cardwell was a former Deputy Lord Mayor of Belfast for the Ulster Unionist Party. He was a member of the old Stormont Parliament. He represented east Pottinger. He was chairman of the old Belfast Corporation welfare committee - at that time the council was responsible for the welfare of people - and that’s why the building was called after him.”
DUP Councillor Tom Haire, High Sherriff of Belfast, said: “It has been lying derelict for a number of years now and there were a lot of people who would have liked to have seen it being brought into use. Obviously, it won’t be now.
“The Fire and Rescue Service had actually used it themselves for training. I live quite near it and I remember seeing them with the breathing apparatus coming in and out, smoke training I imagine they were doing.
“It’s rather sad that this has happened but now we need to look to get the site cleared and get some development again. It is a prime site.”