Belfast Telegraph

This dilapidated street in the heart of Belfast has been an eyesore for 10 years

and now that the cash is finally in place for a revamp, it's time to... GET ON WITH IT!

BY LINDA STEWART

It's been a decaying eyesore in the heart of Belfast for more than 10 years now – and even the last remaining tenant, the Tivoli Barber Shop, has been forced to shut.

Now Lower Garfield Street is being targeted in a new £600,000 blitz on derelict properties across Northern Ireland.

The unusual listed building, which gently curves along the line of the street, has fallen deeper into decay with vegetation sprouting from the rooftops as the long-running saga of the Royal Exchange development proposal has worn on.

It was built in 1896 and named after US president James Garfield who was assassinated in 1881.

It's now one of a host of derelict properties across Northern Ireland expected to get a revamp under a Department of the Environment grant announcement of £500,000 to tackle eyesores.

Funding will go towards tackling eyesores in town centres and arterial routes at Newtownards, Comber, Bangor, Rostrevor, Warrenpoint, Crossmaglen, Kilkeel, Newry, Newtownabbey, the Antrim Coast Road and the Royal Avenue, North Street and Donegall Street areas of Belfast.

There's been criticism from heritage groups of how long it has taken to address the continued dereliction of the important site.

There was a guarded welcome last night for the clean-up but also an indication from some quarters that a definite scheme to restore and rejuvenate the building would be even more welcome.

Architect Mark Hackett of the Forum for an Alternative Belfast said: "We certainly welcome some emergency funding from the minster, some of these buildings could be lost.

"In the case of Listed Buildings, the law requires owners to maintain them in condition and not to allow serious neglect, the owners should contribute.

"We need to take care that grants don't encourage neglect in the first place.

"This is a nice carrot – we'd welcome seeing the stick used as well."

Environment Minister Mark H Durkan said the funding of £605k would bring the total to more than £4m for such projects since the Dereliction Intervention Programme began. "I have seen at first hand – particularly in my home town of Derry – the good work that this dereliction funding can do so I was keen to continue it," said Mr Durkan.

"This is why in addition to the £500k provided by the Executive in the January monitoring round, I have provided a supplement of £100k from my own department's funds."

FACTFILE

Refurbishment payouts: Belfast: £220k for properties round North St/Donegall St/Royal Ave area and both facades of North Street Arcade entrance to get a facelift.

Ards: £111k to improve properties in South Street and Court St in Newtownards and two Comber properties.

North Down: £102k for Gray's Hill in Bangor which leads to the marina and town.

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