A former police station in Warrenpoint, County Down, is to be redeveloped as part of a social housing scheme.
Previous plans to convert the Charlotte Street site into a community centre were scrapped in 2018.
Police halted transfer of the site to the local council saying it was because of “uncertainty surrounding Brexit”.
It was thought that given its proximity to a port, the facility could have been used as a form of customs clearance.
Last year, after this failed to materialise, the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) confirmed that it would once again seek to dispose of the site.
It began a process in which publicly-owned assets that are no longer in use are offered to other public bodies before being put on the open market.
“For Warrenpoint police station one party completed an ‘expression of interest’ – the Northern Ireland Housing Executive – and the sale will now be subject to contract,” the PSNI said this week.
The Housing Executive confirmed it had declared an interest in the site and a housing association had been nominated to enter into discussions.
Independent councillor Jarlath Tinnelly said there was a “lengthy but also stagnant waiting list” for social housing in Warrenpoint.
“There is very little ground that becomes available to eat into that list so it is an opportunity that suits all parties,” he said.
“It is very much an eyesore and it is a site that is a lot bigger than what it looks like from the outside so it would be great to see it cleaned up, tidied up and brought to life with something which is positive for the centre of town,” he added.
The development of housing in the area would mark the latest in a gradual rise in the number of housing schemes in the town centre.
Already, housing developments around the town’s old post office and an old supermarket have been completed and there are plans to redevelop a former pub into apartments on the town’s Main Street.
Town centre living was something that went into decline during the Northern Ireland Troubles.
And like in many other towns, Warrenpoint’s police station was attacked.
In April 1989, an IRA bomb exploded on Charlotte Street killing 20-year-old Joanne Reilly. She had been working in an shop beside the police station at the time of the explosion.
A memorial to Joanne has been erected on the external wall of the station.
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Her family had previously received assurances that the memorial would remain intact irrespective of what happens to the site.
The family’s solicitor, Rosemary Connolly, has called for that commitment to be honoured.
“The Reilly family will insist on the firm guarantee from the Policing Board that that memorial to Joanne will remain in perpetuity, under their control and that it will be respected and maintained in a proper manner,” she said.
The PSNI has previously confirmed that three memorials dedicated to fallen polices officers were located within the former station.
A 2021 statement said: “Any proposals for the relocation and re-dedication of the memorials currently in Warrenpoint police station will be handled properly, with sensitivity and in full consultation with the respective families of those who are commemorated.”
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