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Families living in 'ghost estate' blast council after four years without street lights or bin collections

By Donna Deeney

Published 16/10/2015

The empty plots at Victoria Meadows
The empty plots at Victoria Meadows
Houses in Victoria Meadows
Hazel Callen from Victoria Meadows in Magheramason with her children, Darragh (7), Sophie (4) and Kyle (10)

Families living in an unfinished 'ghost estate' say they have been abandoned by the authorities, which don't provide street lighting, maintain the road or collect rubbish.

Richard and Hazel Callen were filled with hope and excitement as they moved into Victoria Meadows in Magheramason, Co Londonderry, four years ago when the development was still under construction.

Little did they know then that their dreams would soon be shattered as all work on the houses came to an abrupt halt when the developer went into administration.

Like other so-called 'ghost' developments, the majority of the houses in Victoria Meadows are empty and some are not even fully built. There are metal lampposts with no lights, while steel mesh fences are erected around wasteland.

Permission had been granted to build 57 houses - but only 15 were finished and just four of these are occupied.

Mr and Mrs Callen live with their three young children.

Mr Callen said: "We are at our wits' end because we are facing our fourth winter living here without the everyday facilities other people take for granted.

"People here have to pay rates of around £700 but what do you get in return?

"The council don't come here to collect our bins, we have to walk up to the main road to have them emptied. The whole site is a shambles.

He added: "It isn't safe to let our children out to play even in daylight because the fencing that is supposed to keep people from the wasteland isn't secure and the road just ends abruptly.

"It is so bad one of our boys, Darragh, flew over the edge of the road into the ditch below and busted his face on the pipes lying below."

As the darker nights approach, Mrs Callen said a bad situation will get even worse.

She said: "The clocks will go back in a couple of weeks and we will be plunged into darkness which means the children can't get outside at all because it is just too dangerous.

"Having no street lights leaves you vulnerable to criminals - anyone could come here at night and steal our cars or break into our houses and no one would see them.

"We are actually luckier than the others who live here because we rent this house, they are completely stuck but even though we love the house we're being forced to look elsewhere because this is not acceptable in this day and age.

"We had hoped to stay here a long time, that was our plan, the house is wonderful and the children are so happy at Bready Primary School but we have no other choice."

DUP MLA Gary Middleton said his party had raised the lack of bin collections with Derry City and Strabane District Council but added there was little else that could be done for residents.

He said: "Unfortunately the problem with Victoria Meadows is that the developer has gone into administration and the site has not been signed over so it is still private land.

"My colleague, Maurice Devenney, has raised the issue this week at council to see if there could be bin collections and queried the possibility of a rates reduction which would be something at least."

Derry City and Strabane District Council was asked for a comment, but no one was available.

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