‘No hidden agenda’ in village hall lease issue, says council’s chief executive

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LARNE Borough Council has “no hidden agenda” in respect of the Ballygally hall lease, the local authority’s chief executive has declared.

Geraldine McGahey also stated that the council could not “renege” on the lease and officials had been putting pressure on solicitors to have the document sealed.

It is six months since Mrs McGahey and the mayor, Cllr Bobby McKee, publicly signed a lease document at the newly built social enterprise project, which comprises a state-of-the-art community hall and a village shop and post office.

Coast Road representative Ald Winston Fulton highlighted the time lag at the council’s monthly meeting when he said several villagers had asked him why it was taking so long for the lease to be finished and forwarded to Land Registry.

“They asked a number of questions about the lease and all I knew was that there was a certain lease signed by you, Mr Mayor, and the chief executive, which allowed the shop to open and the hall to be used by the community, but it has still not been registered,” the DUP councillor explained.

Ald Fulton said constituents were also asking if the council was “unwilling to sign the lease, or is it that the council has a hidden agenda as regards the community centre?”

Mrs McGahey confirmed that she and the mayor had signed the full lease, the terms were unchanged and there was no dispute with Ballygally Community Development Association.

The chief executive did, however, remind Cllr McKee that “on the day that we did sign it, I pointed out that the paper on which the lease was printed was incorrect.”

Mrs McGahey added that she had also explained that solicitors for both parties would have to examine the agreement and the seals applied before it could be finally registered.

“I know that I and the director (of development) have been repeatedly putting pressure on the solicitors, as has BCDA,”, added Mrs McGahey.

She went on to deal with the question of a “hidden agenda”, saying: “I don’t know where that kind of comment could be coming from.”

Mrs McGahey stated: “There is no hidden agenda on the part of the council and I am not aware of any on the part of BCDA.” The chief executive told Ald Fulton: “If you can enlighten me further, perhaps you would do so after the meeting.”