Frustration as red tape holds up plans for Belfast drugs awareness centre
A community worker has expressed frustration that a property belonging to the former drugs abuse charity Forum for Action on Substance Abuse (Fasa) remains out of action months after being sold.
Located at 178-180 Shankill Road, it has been vacant since Fasa folded in 2016.
In March of that year Fasa announced that it was facing "the prospect of immediate and terminal financial insolvency".
Before suspending its services, it said it helped more than 2,000 people facing suicide, self-harm, substance abuse and mental health issues at five sites across Northern Ireland.
Its Shankill Road base was then put on the market and sold at auction to a private buyer, who is keen to ensure it is used for the benefit of the community.
It is understood that the group Action for Community Transformation (ACT) hopes to rent it and transform it into a community hub that will include a drug awareness facility, suicide awareness and a victims' support group.
But a year after the hammer fell at the auction, these plans have yet to come to fruition.
Steven Pollock told the Belfast Telegraph that locals were becoming increasingly frustrated at how long the process was taking.
He blasted the Department for Communities for "holding up" the reopening of the building, and claimed that if a minister was in place there would not be such a long delay.
The Department for Communities said the hold-up was due to the seeking of legal advice. "The department provided grant funding to Fasa to purchase the building," it said.
"As a condition of the grant, the department required a covenant to be applied to the property which restricted the use of the premises to services addressing drug and alcohol misuse.
"The purpose of this covenant was to protect the public funding invested in the project.
"The new owner of the property purchased it with this covenant in place.
"The owner has proposed uses for the property that impact on the terms of the covenant and the department is currently seeking legal advice, which will inform our response to the plans for the use of the building.
"We expect that the department will be in a position to make a response in the near future and we will contact all the interested parties and advise them accordingly."