Belfast Telegraph

Sunday 23 November 2014

Dangerous estates left unfinished across Northern Ireland

Families across Northern Ireland are living in dangerous housing estates left unfinished by builders in a situation which no one wants to take responsiblity for, it has been claimed.

Children in the Silver Leaves housing development in Lurgan, which has remained unfinished for six years, face the dangers of deadly open manholes, rats, and debris piles 20 feet high, according to a BBC report.

In the Assembly Regional Development Minister Danny Kennedy revealed that Roads Service had deployed 14 private contractors to complete work on 23 sites and that there were 83 sites where work was still unfinished.

But the Roads Service said work to remedy the incomplete developments involved a “delicate situation involving negotiations to resolve the problem”.

Kelly Headley said she and her family live opposite what she described as "the muck heap" - a 20ft high mountain of soil and debris left behind by the builders at the Silver Leaves housing development in Lurgan.

Kelly said she “hates” living in the state and waking up to the same view every day in an estate in which streets have been left unfinished and the street lights don’t work.

"I've been looking at this since we moved in six years ago. It was supposed to be flattened and the roads finished. I'm sick of phoning up about it. I'm onto the Road Service, the rates, the council. No-one does anything, it all falls back on the builders."

She said it is not merely unsightly, but also dangerous. "My two-and-a-half-year-old son was out playing and we found him sitting on the edge of an open manhole with his legs dangling down. He could have fallen in,” she said.

Her neighbour, Jason Roberts said “nobody wants to take responsibility.”

"There are lots of dangers for children here and we don't want to see someone getting hurt. We've also seen rats coming out of the muck heap and into our gardens. A local woman saw a huge rat. Something has to be done,” he said.

In answer to an assembly question from the SDLP's Dolores Kelly, Regional Development Minister Danny Kennedy revealed that Roads Service has deployed 14 private contractors to complete work on 23 sites.

He said that there were 83 sites where work was needed before roads could be "adopted" by Roads Service.

Enforcement action permits the Roads Service to call in financial bonds lodged by the developers before they start work on the housing schemes but it is not often regarded as the best action.

Reynold Nicholson of Roads Service explained: "We could step in straight away but we like to give a developer an opportunity to come back and complete his works. It can cause problems for developers if we call in the bond. It's a delicate situation involving negotiations to resolve the problem."

Mr Nicholson also pointed out that other jobs were affected when contractors are to be sent in to complete unfinished ones.

But Dolores Kelly maintains more could be done. "I don't think that the department has been acting quickly enough. Residents have been putting up with this sort of situation for years. Many would argue that they've been paying their full rates but not getting a full service."

Mrs Kelly is a member of the Assembly's Regional Development Committee which is currently holding an inquiry into unadopted roads which reveals that the current problems existed before the recession led to the property slump, but that it was worsened by it.

It has found that there are a number of unfinished sewerage works across Northern Ireland.

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