The transfer of ownership of Bangor’s iconic courthouse to the town’s Open House Festival has been finally completed, Justice Minister Naomi Long confirmed today.
The transfer of the Victorian B2 listed building, which has an estimated value of £180,000, has taken place as part of the Northern Ireland Executive’s Community Asset Transfer policy and will contribute to the regeneration of Bangor’s seafront.
The building will become a hub for the festival organisers, office facilities for other creative arts businesses as well as providing performance and exhibition spaces.
Welcoming the completion of the transfer, Minister Long said: “I am delighted that the Northern Ireland Courts and Tribunal Service has been able to ensure a building of such architectural significance like this can be transferred and contribute to the regeneration of Bangor’s iconic seafront.
“It is a reassuring to know the courthouse will now be a home to the Festival itself and for creative businesses, as well as providing performance and exhibitions spaces. I have no doubt the building will be a real asset for the festival and also for the people of Bangor and North Down.”
Built in 1866, the courthouse was originally a branch of the Belfast Banking Company and contained a private residence for the bank manager and his family.
In 1952, the Victorian building became a Court of Petty sessions but was decommissioned in 2013 by the Northern Ireland Courts and Tribunal Service.
The transfer and redevelopment of the building will preserve an historic building which has been unused for seven years and is being supported by the National Lottery Heritage Fund, the Department for Communities, Garfield Weston Foundation, Ards and North Down Borough Council and Ulster Garden Villages.
The transfer of ownership will also enable Bangor Open House Festival to extend its programme of events and to deliver cultural, tourism, events and regeneration strategies in partnership with Ards and North Down Borough Council.
Kieran Gilmore, Open House Festival Director said: “Open House Festival began in Belfast’s Cathedral Quarter back in 1999, but for the last 8 years we’ve been focused on the regeneration of Bangor town centre and seafront through music and arts events. This project will be the physical embodiment of everything we’ve worked to achieve – reclaiming Bangor’s role as a vibrant seaside town with a rich cultural life and a strong sense of community. We’re hugely grateful to all the individuals, businesses, organisations and government departments who have supported us this far. Without them, this transfer wouldn’t be happening today.”
Paul Mullan, Director, Northern Ireland of the National Lottery Heritage Fund said: “We’re delighted to support this project which will ultimately save an important heritage asset and create a new and exciting cultural platform for Bangor. In addition to repairing and restoring the Victorian features of the Bangor Courthouse Building, this project seeks to reimagine and redevelop the venue. The creation of new performance spaces and a range of programmes will open it up to new audiences and provide opportunities which the local community and tourists can benefit from. This project clearly demonstrates how by investing in heritage, the National Lottery can have a direct impact on the economic health of our local communities and we’re looking forward to seeing the project officially get underway.”
Notes to editors:
- 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.
- Open House Festival (OHF) submitted a business case in 2017 to support a CAT transfer of Bangor Court House. Initial approval was granted based on a time-bound leasing arrangement, however BOHF revised this approach which accelerated the project; an increase in funding was sought and secured from Heritage Funding. Supplementary plans were approved and in December 2020 approval has been given by Department of Justice and the Department of Finance for the community asset transfer to proceed.
Photo caption: Pictured with Justice Minister Naomi Long are Alison Gordon; Co-director of Bangor Open House Festival, and Paul Mullan; Director NI of the Heritage Lottery Fund
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