Councillor blasts 'eyesore' Belfast public toilets which remain boarded up after two years
A councillor has hit out as historic public toilets in Belfast city centre have remained covered up by hoardings for more than two years, blasting it as an "eyesore".
The toilets outside the Ulster Bank on Shaftesbury Square were damaged two years ago when a crane hit them, also damaging the pavement.
UUP councillor Jeffrey Dudgeon has called on the Department for Infrastructure (DfI) to take action and repair the pavement.
Cllr Dudgeon said the situation had worsened during Storm Eleanor, with fencing moving, exposing two 10ft gaps in the pavements which could have led to passers-by by falling through.
However, the DfI has now replaced the fencing and made the area safe again.
Cllr Dudgeon said: "The immediate death trap has been solved, but the continuing issue on the site with the hoardings and iron fencing remains.
"It is a serious matter because it impedes pedestrian use of the pavement and it makes Shaftesbury Square, which is not looking its best, even worse.
"It is a real eyesore."
Cllr Dudgeon said he has been trying to resolve the issue for two years and had managed to make several minor improvements to the area, including installing new litter boxes, replacing light bulbs in the street lights and removing yellow lines outside Donegall Pass Barracks to enable parking again.
He added: "The DfI has responsibility for our pavements, the individual who owns the toilets has erected these barriers and they were damaged by a crane that sat on them some two years ago.
"The DfI has told me there is a legal action pending (between the crane operator and owner) and that the owner can do nothing.
"The DfI has accepted that but I don't think that argument is tenable. The DfI should take it upon itself to repair the surface of the pavement and remove the hoarding and, if appropriate, bill the owner.
"I have been given the run around by the DfI and it is no longer acceptable.
"If there was damaged pavement outside the DfI headquarters the matter would have been dealt with by now."
Planning permission was granted in April 2012 to a private developer called Alistair Steele to convert the toilets into a cafe, but the work was never carried out.
A Department for Infrastructure spokesman responded to Cllr Dudgeon's comments.
"The Department has been monitoring this area and a repair squad did attend the site on January 3, 2018, following Storm Eleanor," the spokesperson said.
"Departmental officials have attempted to contact the landowner of this site on several occasions without success.
"As this area is not part of the adopted footway, responsibility for it lies with the land owner.
"Officials are working with Belfast City Council to identify a long term resolution to the problems at this site."
Cllr Dudgeon said he had also been contacted by the adjacent Ulster Bank as vandals have been throwing paint at the statues which are attached to the side of the building.
"Those sculptures are by Dame Elizabeth Frink and they are describe as 'flying figures' and people have been throwing paint at them," he said.
"It has been very difficult to get the paint out.
"It is part of the whole graffiti problem in the area."