The Department of Justice has announced plans to transfer Bangor Court House to allow it be brought back into use as a community facility.
The planned transfer of the Victorian building from Northern Ireland Courts and Tribunal Service (NICTS) to Open House Festival (OHF) will be made utilising the Northern Ireland Executive’s Community Asset Transfer (CAT) Policy.
The CAT process will see the building firstly leased to OHF, before transferring the building to their full ownership subject to proof of sustainability of their business model over the lease period.
The move is a first step in allowing the regeneration of the facility through funding secured by OHF from the Heritage Lottery Fund for the first round of their Court House Heritage Enterprise project, Architectural Heritage Fund, Ulster Garden Villages as well as money raised through crowdfunding and a Barclays Bank charity ball.
The transfer and redevelopment aims to preserve the historic building which has been unused since it was decommissioned by Northern Ireland Courts and Tribunal Service (NICTS) in 2013. It will also contribute to the regeneration of the Bangor seafront area, while creating a hub for community activities, which will allow OHF to extend its programme of events in a permanent base.
Open House Festival are also a strategic partner with Ards and North Down Borough Council in helping the Council deliver their tourism, events and regeneration strategies
Acting Chief Executive of the Northern Ireland Courts and Tribunal Service, Peter Luney, said;
“This iconic building served the community of Bangor as a Magistrate’s Court for over 60 years. I am sure that its transfer and regeneration will bring this piece of history back into use for the benefit of the local community for years to come. I commend Open House Festival for seeking to redevelop the building and wish them every success for their future.”
Kieran Gilmore, Open House Festival Director, said: “This is a huge step for the Festival, and a really exciting opportunity for Bangor. If we can restore and re-purpose this important Victorian listed building on Bangor seafront, then we can show how arts and culture can lead the way in putting the heart and soul back into our town centre. We want to thank everyone who has helped so far, including the many hundreds of people who have supported our crowdfunding campaign and charity ball, plus Development Trusts NI who have guided us through the CAT process, and Bangor Shared Space, who started the initial campaign to save the Court House.”
Úna Duffy, Development Manager Heritage Lottery Fund in NI added “This is a significant step forward for the regeneration and reuse of the Courthouse in Bangor. The Department of Justice, Open House Festival and others have worked hard to find the right use for this important historic building and to secure its future at the heart of Bangor seafront. Heritage Lottery Fund has committed funding for the regeneration of Bangor through our recent Great Place investment and we’ve made an initial commitment of funding support to help with the plans for the Courthouse. We are delighted that our funding has helped to unlock the initial transfer of the building to the community. We wish Open House Festival well as they take their plans forward and we commend the Department of Justice for transferring the building via the community asset transfer process.”
Stephen Reid, Chief Executive of Ards and North Down Borough Council said, “I am delighted that Open House has had the transfer of the former Bangor Courthouse to it approved; the passion they have put into their crowdfunding campaign has clearly been contagious, and they have received support and donations from organisations big and small, as well as from the general public, who are enthused to experience more of what Open House has to offer.
Bangor will benefit immensely from the restoration of this iconic listed building in the town centre, seeing it transform into a permanent multi-purpose festival venue. I am proud that Ards and North Down Borough Council is partnering in the development of the Festival and events which bring so much to Bangor and the wider Borough and I wish them every success in their venture; exciting times ahead.”
Notes to editors:
1. Community Asset Transfer (CAT) is a NI Executive policy led by the Department for Communities (DfC) which allows change in management and/or ownership of land or buildings from public bodies to communities.
2. Open House Festival (OHF) submitted a business case in 2017 to support a CAT transfer of Bangor Court House. The approval of the business case extends to providing OHF with two separate leases of nine months. The final transfer of the property will be subject to OHF securing funding within the 18 month leasehold period to carry out the minimum works as set out in their business case and the provision of evidence that their business model is sustainable.
3. OHF is a registered charity and a not for profit organisation. They have secured funding for the first phase of redevelopment of £111,206 to date from
Heritage Lottery Fund - £28,000
Architectural Heritage Trust- £13,750
Ulster Garden Villages - £5,000
Barclays Bank charity ball - £32,700
4. Further funding will be sought by OHF as part of the second phase of redevelopment.For more information on Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) visit https://www.hlf.org.uk
5. For all media enquiries, please contact the DoJ Press Office on 028 9052 6444. Out of office hours, please contact the Duty Press Officer via pager number 07623974383 and your call will be returned.Follow us on twitter @Justice_NI
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