Belfast Telegraph

Community group hits out at McCausland over meeting 'snub'

Dave Whelan

Community representatives in south Belfast are furious after they were turned away from an arranged meeting with Social Development Minister Nelson McCausland.

Members of the Greater Village Regeneration Trust (GVRT) housing focus said they were dismissed "with a slight of the hand" because the meeting was scheduled under a different community group name.

Both the GVRT housing focus group and the GVRT community design team share members and have been lobbying the Department of Social Development (DSD) for a meeting with the Housing Minister to discuss concerns they have with the Village regeneration project.

Previously the GVRT community design team had met with a senior aide to the minister in May this year, where they had been told their concerns would be brought back to the minister and a follow up meeting arranged.

However when members of the GVRT housing focus, including the co-chair of of the GVRT community design team Ann Crowe and other members, turned up for the meeting they were told that no meeting had been arranged with that particular group.

"Both groups want to get the same issues addressed and as a result we put in separate requests for a meeting with the minister to gain a bit of recognition and hopefully speed up the process," said Mrs Crowe.

"When we went to attend the meeting we were told that as the housing focus we had no scheduled meeting. As a representative of both groups, and as the co-chair of the community design team, I and another member put ourselves forward to attend the meeting, but were told the minister's diary had been rescheduled.

"We felt really let down because we feel that Mr McCausland should be fighting in our corner but instead his office has hidden behind a formality so that he doesn't even have to meet with us," she added.

The groups have concerns about the amount of waste ground being created during the £100m redevelopment of the Village area.

The scheme was launched by former Social Development Minister Margaret Ritchie and was based around creating viable housing for the area.

As part of the scheme 40% of the funding was to be used for re-generation rather than re-development, something the groups say is being ignored.

"Our issues aren't groundbreaking, we just want to sit with the minister and explain that while we are happy with the redevelopment of the area we have concerns over the levels of regeneration and address basic housing issues and the availability of waste ground," said Mrs Crowe.

"Mr McCausland doesn't seen to be in any way pro-active enough in regards to the area and when we try to bring the issues to him we are dismissed with a slight of the hand."

A statement from the DSD said: "No meeting had been arranged today with the Greater Village Regeneration Trust Housing Focus Committee, however the group did meet with officials from the Department in May. Since then no request to meet with DSD representatives has been received."

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