A massive regeneration project worth £100m to transform one of the most deprived areas of Northern Ireland has been unveiled.
Social Development Minister Margaret Ritchie approved ambitious proposals for a multi-million pound housing investment across the Village area of south Belfast yesterday after accepting a recommendation from an independent inspector.
The minister said over 500 old homes, many unfit for further occupation, would be demolished and replaced by 273 new homes built to the latest design and environmental standards. A number of other homes across the area will also be refurbished as part of wider plans which will be delivered over the coming years.
In 2007 Miss Ritchie expressed shock after a Belfast Telegraph investigation revealed dozens of residents in the area, just off the affluent Lisburn Road, had been living in Dickensian conditions, with outside toilets, no heating and in some cases no electricity.
In her address yesterday, |Ms Ritchie said: “This is an important day for the people of the Village. This announcement means that work can now begin in earnest to deliver change that will see some of the worst housing in the community replaced with more modern, sustainable homes.”
A public inquiry into the effect of the new proposal was held at Donegall Road Methodist Church Hall in October.
Ms Ritchie added: “I recognise our proposals have divided opinion in the community and it was right that a public inquiry was held to allow people the chance to have their say.
“I am conscious that there are many homeowners who will be directly affected by this announcement. Many of them have lived here all their life and I want to see what I can do to provide the choice for them to remain in the community post-regeneration.
“I will shortly publish a consultation document outlining new proposals that could see many of them stay in the community after the work is complete.”
Hundreds of Village residents took to the streets three times during 2007 to protest at the need for better housing in their area.
Ulster Unionist councillor for the area Bob Stoker said: “The Housing Executive is now to establish a design team to cover all |aspects of the redevelopment process and will contact all those affected by this Vesting Order during the coming months.”