Funding has been secured to revamp dozens of Londonderry’s worst eyesores ahead of the UK CIty of Culture year.
Environment Minister Alex Attwood has earmarked more than £500,000 to address long standing concerns over unsightly areas and derelict buildings in and around the city centre.
The minister said he was confident that the work could be done with two months left before the 2013 City of Culture year.
Among the most popular announcements made yesterday was the awarding of almost £100,000 to construct 80 artistic panels around the derelict former Tillie and Henderson shirt factory site.
Neighbouring buildings at this site — the main gateway to the city centre — will be revamped.
A further £45,000 has been allocated to deal with the City Walls area, including St Columb’s Hall area. Work is to be carried out on the rundown Foyle Street facade, buildings and features along Shipquay Street, Strand Road, Waterloo Place, Duke Street, the cathedral quarter, William Street and Gt James Street.
Speaking in the city centre yesterday, the minister said he was committed to addressing the infrastructural needs of the city.
He pointed out that more than a third of the entire Northern Ireland budget for listed buildings had been allocated for Derry.
“A few weeks ago we announced £700,000 further money to go into heritage buildings in the city, mainly listed buildings, archaeology, promotion through booklets and leaflets.
“This announcement today comes after the £400,000 announced for Portstewart and Portrush and dealing with 20-odd derelict sites that were eyesores, in the run up to the Irish Open.
“The money up there was agreed upon and spent in 10 weeks. I am confident we can do the same here in the time given before the City of Culture year.
“It will be the exact same for the 30 to 40 different projects here in Derry. The money will be used for urban parks, hoardings with images of the city, like cultural icons that come from here, wraparounds, painting.
“A lot of this work will be in conservation areas, and concerns projects that wouldn’t get a grant because they are not listed buildings.”
He added: “Derry City will be very much in the international spotlight next year.
“Over half a million pounds of funding will go a long way towards ridding the city of derelict eyesores.
“If we want tourists to stay longer, if we want more tourists to come, then tackling major |eyesores and dereliction will certainly help.”
The minister also touched on his long-awaited decisions on the nine planning applications for massive investment projects in the city to include supermarkets, hotels and cinemas.
Mr Attwood said: “In respect of the planning applications now within my grasp, the first phase of decisions will be rolled out in November but I cannot be more specific than that.”
He reiterated that most of the nine would be rejected. “A minority will be approved. What that number is and what that they are, some of that will become clear in November.”
The announcement was roundly welcomed in Derry by a delegation meeting the minister.
Deputy Mayor Mary Hamilton, said: “This is great news for our city and we have got to get a move on now to ensure it is completed on time.”
Helen Quigley of the Inner City Trust, added: “This is a significant amount of money to do a really good clean-up and this is vitally important given the significance of the City of Culture.
“All of us involved involved in regeneration in and around the city centre want to project Derry as the best it can be next year.”
SDLP councillor Martin Reilly, who lobbied for the funding, added: “I am delighted that Minister Attwood has recognised the importance of investing in our built heritage in advance of City of Culture 2013.
“Buildings are more than just bricks and mortar — they tell a story of our city’s past — and it is welcome news that a number of them are to get a fresh lease of life as we look to the future.”