The Social Centre on Edward Street Ballymoney has for many years now been in need of major renovations, and under the old Ballymoney council, these works seemed to be part of the councils plans, however during the transition to the new causeway Coast & Glens Council, the Evergreen centre was no longer seen as a priority.
The fight to upgrade the Social Centre facilities was supported by several of the councillors but not enough to have these capital works carried out. Championed by one Councillor in particular, Ian Stevenson DUP, along with members of the main users of the centre ‘The Evergreen Club’, they took the fight to the council again and again.
The Evergreen Club was established over 62 years ago and has occupied its current home of the Social Centre for the last 34 years. Much of the success of the Evergreen Club making it what it is today and its popularity is attributed to the former Mayor, the late Mrs Mollie Holmes OBE .During this dispute for the council to carry out these repairs to the centre, it came to light that in fact the centre wasn’t owned by council but they had simply managed and ran the facility for the last 30 years. This had included paying the overheads and upkeep for those 30 years.
Further research showed in fact that the Social centre was owned by the members who had been appointed trustees after the site was originally purchased by the NI Council for Social Services (now known as NICVA). The members went on in 1964 to get a mortgage which it is now assumed that the current building was erected with. Unfortunately after 1964 the paper trail runs cold until 1983 when Mrs Mollie Holmes OBE is said to have asked that it be given to the council free of charge around but as paperwork for said agreement appears never to have been complete at that time, the transfer did not go ahead leaving the building last know owners as the trustees, the Evergreen club.
BEHIND CLOSED DOORS!
This revelation lead to the council taking the action to hand the ownership back to the Evergreen Club, however after a meeting between council and the Evergreen Club, council agreed in May 2016 that for a period of 6 months to continue the centre management including associated cost to give members of Evergreen a chance to consider their options.
This back and forth would go on for just over two years until Tuesday 22nd May past when 50 of the members attended a council meeting where a last attempt would be made to have the council retain the centres management. Due to a legal matter the council meeting was a closed meeting which prevented any of the members attending inside the chamber. Despite this a large portion of the members hung around to hear the final decision on the fate of their centre.
Unfortunately for the Evergreen club, the decision after over 3 hours of discussion, saw the council reject this last proposal to have the centre remain under the councils control, instead opting to hand it back to the evergreen club via NICVA, with funding cut.
Council confirmed this decision following the meeting stating;
“After a lengthy debate at the May meeting including a number of failed amendments, the council have decided to reaffirm the NICVA ownership of Edward Street Social Centre, and will hand back the management of the facility to them.”
Councillor Stevenson on the decision said’
“I am not at all happy at this time and to see the disappointment of members of the club last Friday at their meeting was heartbreaking.”
NICVA and its members will now have some hard decisions to make in regards the future of the Social Centre and indeed the Evergreen club.