Tuesday evening's monthly meeting ratified a recommendation to this effect made by a joint meeting of the Leisure Services Committee and the Corporate Services Committee.
The proposal to retain the centre was made at the joint meeting by Deputy Mayor Councillor William Gardiner Watson and was seconded by Councillor Seamus Close and agreed to unanimously by those present.
The decision was taken after councillors had watched a presentation on the subject and various questions had been answered by council directors.
The decision was welcomed by Councillor Gary McMichael who said he first indicated the intention of Lisburn City Council to close the Centre two years ago.
"A few months later a decision was taken to do exactly that. Councillor Seamus Close and I managed to overturn that decision, which had been made without any consultation with the community," he said.
"I organised a public meeting along with Seamus to create a platform of opposition to the plans.
"We have campaigned alongside the 'Friends of the Bridge' consistently to save this important historical and community landmark, and finally that has paid off.
"Attempts have been made by some councillors and officers to put obstacle after obstacle in the way to ensure that the facility would close.
"The issue has dragged on for a year and a half without any decision, but despite the best efforts by some to load the dice in favour of closure we have now pushed through an agreement that not only should the Bridge Community Centre be retained as a community facility but that it will be refurbished to a standard that befits its unique place in the heart of the Lisburn community.
"It is an absolute disgrace that some councillors were ready to close and sell off this facility just to save a few quid and to bolster the Civic Centre which has had difficulty attracting community groups because of its exorbitant prices.
"Now, because of community pressure they have been forced to accept that the people of Lisburn want the Bridge Community Centre to remain.
"I want to pay tribute to the 'Friends of the Bridge' whose persistence has been a major factor in saving the Bridge Community Centre for the people of Lisburn."
Councillors warmly welcome Centre's retention
LISBURN councillors have welcomed the decision to retain the Bridge Community Centre.
Councillor Trevor Lunn, a strong campaigner in favour of keeping the facility, paid tribute to the members of the Friends of the Bridge group. "I warmly welcome the decision of council to retain the Bridge Community Centre in public ownership and to go forward with the renovation work," said Mr. Lunn. "The Bridge is an important land , mark building at one of the entrances to the historic quarter.
"Given the sums of money involved the decision could not be rushed and it was good to see a unanimous approval from councillors of all parties.
"I would congratulate Henry Phillips and his colleagues from the Friends of the Bridge group on their sustained and effective campaign which I believe was a major factor in persuading those councillors who have may have been undecided to support the decision."
Councillor Jonathan Craig said the council could not have justified closing the facility and impinging upon the user groups.
"We would have been alienating that entire section of the community in Lisburn by closing the facility and ordering them to move somewhere else," he said. "In the circumstances it was the only decision that made any sense, it was shown that we could not have accommodated the groups anywhere else. The CAB for instances needs a city centre facility, which the council couldn't have provided anywhere else but the Bridge.
"The groups in question would have been left high and dry which is unacceptable. But I think the users of the centre and those who work within it should now be content that their future is safe."
Ivan Davis, chairman of Leisure Services, said he was 'delighted' the issue has been 'resolved through the unanimously agreed decision' of the two council committees.
He added. "I would pay tribute to those people, especially Mr. Henry Phillips, who presented the arguments for the retention of the Bridge in a very responsible and constructive manner. In chairing the joint committee meeting I was very pleased to sec the standard of debate, this matter of major public importance was about drawing together an agreed resolution and this was achieved."
COMMITTEES VOTES TO REFURBISHMENTCOMPLEX
Residents' delight at Bridge reprieve
by ALISTAIR BUSHE
Henry Phillips of the Save the Bridge group praised Lisburn councillors after a joint meeting of the Corporate Services and Leisure Services Committees voted unanimously on Monday to retain the centre.
The Bridge is to undergo a major facelift costing between £600,000 and £700,000 with new access facilities provided for people with disabilities, a purpose-built extension constructed and a painting and decorating programme undertaken.
Mr. Phillips claims the closure of the Bridge would have been a disaster for its user groups who, he says, would have been faced with crippling costs in other council facilities.
"We're all very pleased and especially because it was a unanimous decision by the councillors in the end," said Mr. Phillips.
"We appreciate the fact that although it's been a long process, it does show that the councillors are willing to listen to what people are saying.
"There are 70,000 footfalls per year at the Bridge which means this affects thousands of people. It would not have suited us at all to go elsewhere. We would have been talking about a four-fold increase in costs and the groups are already finding it difficult to make ends meet."
Mr. Phillips saluted the efforts of all his committee members. "We've held many meetings since last May and it's been a lot of work for our committee," he added. "We'd like to thank Gary McMichael in particular who played a very important role. Seamus Close, Trevor Lunn, Edwin Poots and Jonathan Craig were also helpful."
Tom Cairns of the Drumlough Community Association said community groups who use the Bridge would welcome the news.
"I would like to thank Henry for the effort he and his Save the Bridge group have put in to keep the facility open," said Mr. Cairns.
"Once this building is complete people with disabilities will have access in and out of this building. It's a good thing the council are not pushing people out. As chairman of Drumlough Community Association we have used the facility quite a lot. We wish Deirdre Russell and her staff all the best in the future."
Jackie McQuillan of the Halftown Residents Group echoed those comments.
"I'm glad common sense has prevailed and that a good community facility has been able to stay in the heart of the city," he said.
"Special thanks should go to the Save the Bridge committee for their excellent campaign to save it."