ONE of the biggest social housing projects in the United Kingdom could be built at Hilden Mill, according to Lagan Valley Assembly member, Jonathan Craig.
He revealed the plans, which could be agreed upon on in the autumn by the Housing Executive, could see the building of up to 400 houses. It comes days after Environment Minister Alex Attwood revealed a massive fire at the mill last month was caused by vandals who had set fire to the plastic cables on the third floor.
Mr. Attwood said: "My Department has been advised by the Northern Ireland Fire and Rescue Service, that the fire was caused by vandals.
The fire has caused extensive damage to the top three floors, with a partial collapse of the roof. A structural crack has also appeared in the roof top water tank enclosure. I understand that a Building Control officer has carried out a visual assessment of the building along with the developer's architect, and the initial assessment is that the primary structure appears not to be compromised.
"NIEA officials have been in contact with the Developer's Architect Dawson Stelfox, who has contacted the owners, Galliard Homes, and provided them with an update on the condition of the structure. I understand that there may be some interest from other parties in acquiring part of the site.
"My officials are seeking to convene a meeting with interested parties, to discuss potential future uses for this historic and architecturally important site."
Mr. Craig described the building as hugely historic and said: "I am appalled to hear that this fire was deliberate and would appeal to anyone with information to bring it forward to the PSNI.
"This building symbolises the role Lisburn played during the industrial revolution in Ulster.
This mill was one of eight separate mills in Lisburn which were contributing not just to the economy of Northern Ireland but also the economy of the UK. Hilden Mill was the last mill to survive the change in the world economy.
District Policing Partnership member Councillor Paul Stewart also condemned those who started the fire.
"This fire cost the tax payer considerable cost, as over 60 fire fighters battled with the blaze to save the Victorian building and those vandals who caused the fire should be brought before the courts to answer for their actions" he said.