Belfast Telegraph

Friday 22 August 2014

DebateNI home of Northern Ireland politics

Bulldozers and grass seed don’t build communities - McCausland

Stormont Executive press release - Department for Social Development

Housing Minister Nelson McCausland has confirmed pilot areas for his regeneration programme to build successful communities.

The six areas selected are at Belfast’s Lower Oldpark/Hillview, Divis/Albert Street, Tiger’s Bay/Mountcollyer, Shankill/Brown Square, Andersonstown and Doury Road in Ballymena.

Speaking ahead of a visit to some of the pilot areas, Minister McCausland said: “While much has been done to support disadvantaged communities some initiatives have not really worked in the way that they should have. There are still areas blighted by dereliction and decay, with empty houses that are boarded up and land that lies derelict and undeveloped. These problems drag a community down, becoming magnets for anti-social behaviour and dumping. They blight the lives of the residents, creating despair and they are a lost opportunity. It is wrong to condemn people to living in such situations and I am determined to do something about it.

“In the past there was a tendency to simply bulldoze the empty properties, clear the site and walk away. But a bulldozer and some grass seed is simply not good enough. It leaves communities with the heart torn out of them. We need a more radical approach that will deliver results.

“I want to see a more radical and strategic approach. An approach that truly engages with local people so what have become forgotten communities, can once again become thriving and successful. This has been done elsewhere and this pilot programme will allow us to try out a range of initiatives to see what works best and what could work in other places too.” 

The new initiative, which is part of the Minister’s ‘Facing the Future - Housing Strategy for Northern Ireland’, aims to use housing intervention as one of the main catalysts for local regeneration. Work in the areas will involve concerted social, economic and physical interventions by the Department for Social Development’s Housing and Urban Regeneration Directorates together with support from the Social Security Agency, the Housing Executive, Housing Associations, local communities and key statutory and voluntary agencies to develop solutions that will reverse decline and create more sustainable communities. 

The Minister concluded: “These six pilot areas meet the criteria for selection as detailed in the Housing Strategy. All are already designated areas of deprivation but, critically, have good potential for recovery with available land or properties that can be refurbished.

“Regeneration Forums will now be set up in each of the areas to take work forward and develop plans with tailor-made economic, physical and social interventions to meet community needs. Once all necessary approvals and funding have been secured, we will start to see work take place on the ground.” 

The pilot programme will complement existing departmental programmes including the Social Housing Development Programme and the Minister remains committed to delivering 6000 new social homes by 2015 in line with Programme for Government targets.

Notes to editors:

1. Membership of Regeneration Forums will be sought from the Housing Executive, elected representatives, council officials, housing associations and representatives from education, health and the voluntary and community sectors.
2. Regeneration Managers are being recruited for each area to support the work of the Forums and DSD’s housing and regeneration officials will play a lead role in supporting the forums to identify the issues in their area and develop and implement solutions relating to housing, regeneration, infrastructure, employment and social enterprise together with other issues which the forum feels is important.
3. Maps of each pilot areas can be viewed at http://www.dsdni.gov.uk/building-successful-communities.htm
4. Photos from the launch event can be viewed later today on Flickr athttp://www.flickr.com/photos/niexecutive/collections/72157626632064777/ 
5. Photos of housing led regeneration schemes in Great Britain can be viewed later today on Flickr athttp://www.flickr.com/photos/niexecutive/collections/72157626632064777/
6. The ‘Facing the Future’ - action plan and consultation summary documents can be viewed on the Department for Social Development website: Facing the Future Action Plan and the Housing Strategy Consultation.

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