Belfast Telegraph

Revamp is on the cards for derelict buildings in Derry

By Linda Stewart

Derelict buildings in Londonderry could be next in line for a major spruce-up.

Portstewart and Portrush were first to get the revamp treatment, with a cash injection of £400,000 to clean up derelict sites ahead of the Irish Open.

Now it looks like Derry will follow — only on a bigger scale.

Environment Minister Alex Attwood revealed he will be bidding for funding to tackle the derelict eyesores that blight Derry, cleaning up the city for its year as City of Culture.

The money secured for the north coast resorts of Portrush and Portstewart was used to demolish some buildings, repair others and landscape gap sites to create urban parks.

Among the buildings demolished were the Strand Hotel in Portstewart and the crumbling Metropole Hotel on the main approach road into Portrush. The minister told the Belfast Telegraph: “I am anticipating a bid coming from Derry of the same kind, looking for money to improve the built environment, where sites are derelict.

“My built heritage people are working up proposals for short-term money to go to Derry and we will be submitting a bid in the June monitoring round in advance of 2013.”

Mr Attwood said the plan highlights the need for a funding stream to put money into built heritage as it is such a vital cog in tourism and economic growth.

And the minister called on the Executive to put more money into heritage for its own worth, and also as an engine of economic growth. “Six out of 10 of our top visitor attractions are built and natural heritage and it seems to me that we have to escalate our efforts,” he said.

Addressing a report by the Northern Ireland Audit Office over the slow rate at which the Northern Ireland Environment Agency is surveying and listing historic buildings, the minister said: “That is why in 12 months as minister I have escalated the profile of the built heritage, its value and risks.

“The three heritage crime summits — which the media will be invited to — bring all who value the built heritage to push limits on protecting the built heritage.

“More urgent works notices in six months than 40 years, increased listed grant aid, extra money for the second survey shows a gear change from what went before,” said Mr Attwood.

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