Belfast Telegraph

Bid to force derelict site clean-up

Developers who have left sites derelict and unfinished could be forced to clean them up under proposed new powers, the Environment Minister has warned.

The authorities can currently force owners to take action if their land is a hazard to the public, but Alex Attwood is considering stronger laws to compel them to act if the site is an eyesore.

Mr Attwood told Assembly question time that something had to be done about the growing number of sites left in a poor state as a result of the economic downturn.

"One of the interventions that I am actively considering is to allow a planning authority to require the owner or occupier of derelict land, the condition of which is adversely affecting the amenity of the area, to take whatever steps the authority specifies to clean up the land," he said.

"That is a power that already falls to the planning authorities in England and it is the type of power that might have relevance going forward."

The SDLP minister had been asked by party colleague Alban Maginness to outline what could be done to tackle the issue, in particular the increasing number of derelict sites in coastal towns.

Mr Attwood said he was convening a group to assess to scale of the problem in Portrush and Portstewart next month and to determine what could be done in that specific area.

He warned that wider action would be needed across Northern Ireland to combat what he claimed would be a long-term issue.

"One thing is very clear - given the scale of the issue, and given the scale of our economic situation it does seem to me that interventions do need to be identified and progressed given that the issue of dereliction is going to be with us for a significant period of time, stretching over a number of years, perhaps stretching beyond the next decade," he said.

"And this is the right time for government to show good authority to intervene and to maximise response from all those who are responsible including developers and owners."

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