Belfast Telegraph

OAPs living in squalor as DoE reneges on plans to fix storm-hit listed cottage

By Donna Deeney

The Environment Minister has been accused of letting down an elderly family needing help to fix their 300-year-old cottage.

Edward Quigley (69) and his sister Eileen (72) have lived all their lives in a tiny thatched cottage without running water or electricity.

It is a Grade B listed building but there is a gaping hole in the roof after a storm last March.

The minister, Mark H Durkan, visited the siblings at their Magilligan home which has been in the family for four generations.

The family claim Mr Durkan agreed to prioritise their application for help, but stated that his department had no money.

But when Mr Durkan announced last week that he was setting aside £500,000 from the carrier bag levy to protect listed buildings, the family thought their prayers had been answered.

They hoped some of this could be used to cover the cost of the repairs of the cottage. But their nephew Mark Canning (below) - who cares for them since their health deteriorated - said nothing was forthcoming.

"My aunt and uncle live a very simple life in the home that they were born in, but they are getting on in years and the house has fallen into a severe state of disrepair," he said.

"They need help and because the building is listed, it falls under the protection of the Northern Ireland Environment Agency."

He said they applied for help, and understood the cottage fell into all three 'priority categories' for a grant aid scheme.

"The minister actually came out and visited my aunt and uncle in their home and agreed that their situation was urgent and also that they met the criteria for all kinds of help and he asked that their case was given the highest priority," said Mr Canning. "Last week, Mr Durkan announced he was setting aside money from the carrier bag tax for listed buildings, so we hoped that he would remember my aunt and uncle and the dreadful conditions they are living in.

"We hoped he would allocate the money they needed to carry out the repairs that would allow them to live in a wee bit of comfort in their latter years."

A DoE spokesman said applications which focused "on supporting restoration and maintenance projects in buildings that provide facilities for community access and use, including churches," would be prioritised.

"Unfortunately this means that a number of historic building scheme applications, including this one, cannot be progressed at the current time.

"If further funds, not linked to the support of community schemes, become available in the future, then this project will be given the highest priority."

Belfast Telegraph


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