Belfast Telegraph

Derelict north coast sites may be spruced up in time for Irish Open

By Linda Stewart

Derelict sites blighting the north coast could be spruced up in time for the Irish Open.

Environment Minister Alex Attwood told the Assembly he is considering funding a scheme that would improve the appearance of derelict sites abandoned by developers when the property market crashed.

Both seaside and inland towns have been left with sites where buildings were demolished for development, but were left untouched because developers could not afford to build.

Mr Attwood said there is a legislative gap when it comes to these sites.

Councils can deal with dilapidated buildings while the DoE can take action over deteriorating listed buildings, but no-one has the powers to deal with unsafe derelict sites.

The only exception is Belfast, which has powers dating back to the 19th century to deal with dilapidated sites, he said.

“New legislation is going to take time,” he explained.

“What we’re looking at is whether there is any other alternative in real time in respect of Portstewart and Portrush in order to improve sites.

“If we are able to do anything, it will be done very, very quickly.

“There is an obligation on Nama, the developers and the administrators to do what they can.

“I know which developers have got money because they are developing sites. They are looking for planning permission and getting planning permission.”

Some developers are pressing ahead with getting planning permission for sites, while yards away other sites they own are left to become derelict, he said. “We are going to work with local councils to deal with developers who have responsibilities and have the money to get their sites in order,” he added.

“There are a number of seaside towns and inland towns where, because of the development collapse, there are pretty critical issues in respect of a number of sites which have been abandoned or not even started.

“In Portstewart there are derelict sites on the seafront, while in Portrush, going in from the police station to the town centre on the left and right, there are opportunities to create a better appearance and create a better impact on those who come to the Irish Open.

“A site that is going to wrack and ruin has a negative impact at every level.” A short-term cash injection could help the area, he said.

background

A motion is set to go before the Assembly to give local councils across Northern Ireland powers to make derelict sites safe. Mr Attwood said the Executive needs to step in and deal with the issue of “nuisance eyesores and dilapidation” on the north coast, where the Irish Open takes place this summer. The minister has signalled a cash injection is possible.

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