Belfast Telegraph

Council monitoring steps being taken on Belfast flats problem

The apartments at Victoria Square
The apartments at Victoria Square
Claire McNeilly

By Claire McNeilly

Belfast City Council believes that appropriate action is being taken to address the serious structural problems that led to the evacuation of 91 homes in a luxury apartment block in Belfast city centre.

Residents were instructed to leave the upmarket development at Victoria Square "immediately for safety reasons" on Wednesday and told they would have to find and pay for alternative accommodation for the next five months.

The Belfast Telegraph yesterday revealed that flat owners had been asked to pay £10,000 each for structural repairs, amounting to £910,000 - an anticipated repair bill just shy of £1m.

But, significantly, that calculation was done by the management company long before the problem was deemed severe enough to merit a dramatic mid-week evacuation of all the apartments at The Residence.

Notwithstanding the major issue affecting the high-end flats, it's business as usual for stores in the adjoining Victoria Square shopping centre, as well as the underground car park.

And now, after a site visit on Wednesday, Building Control has said "proactive steps" are being taken to "address" and "contain" the problem which relates to "damage to a structural column within the residential complex".

Yesterday, Belfast City Council also said it will be monitoring the situation "to assess whether any formal action is required on the part of the council".

"Building owners are responsible for undertaking repair works to their properties and ensuring they are safe," a statement said.

"If an owner fails to comply with those obligations, the council can use enforcement powers to compel them to carry out repairs.

"Structural engineers engaged by the residential managing company for Victoria Square contacted our Building Control team earlier this week to notify us of planned works to resolve a structural issue within the site.

"Our team met with the structural engineers on site to ascertain the exact nature and extent of the issue, which relates to damage to a structural column within the residential complex, and to determine the time scales involved in carrying out repairs.

"We are satisfied proactive steps are being taken by the residential managing company and ensure this issue is contained within the residential complex, allowing the remainder of Victoria Square to operate as normal."

Belfast City Council also said there will be "ongoing conversations between our staff, the structural engineers engaged by the managing agents, an independent consultant engineer and other relevant statutory agencies."

The management company was questioned on how long it will take for the specific cause of the structural damage to be identified, and whether it has now established the parties responsible for the problem.

The Belfast Telegraph further asked if all 91 shareholders must continue to pay their mortgages while unable to live in the premises, and if all apartment owners are insured for this eventuality?

A spokesman for Victoria Square Residential Management Limited said it was unable to respond to the questions.

"The management company is not in a position to comment on any potential litigation or those parties who may be involved," a statement said.

"Questions relating to the individual shareholders mortgage liabilities or insurance are for their own professional advisors."

Victoria Square Residential Management Limited released a previous statement on Wednesday saying the estimated cost of repairs was "significant" due to "the technical nature of the work involved".

It also said it hoped "to start work on site soon"; that it was "regrettable that this situation will cause inconvenience to the residents"; and that it was "doing all it can to resolve the matter as quickly as possible".

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