10/06/2011

DUP Housing Minister Backs Village People

The 'Village people' were celebrating this week as the regeneration of an iconic south Belfast loyalist area kicked-off.

They may not have been dancing in the streets, but with the help of DUP stalwart and NI Housing Minister Nelson McCausland, residents formally marked the launch of a long-awaited plan to develop modern housing in an increasingly rundown area where housing shortages have already led to many families moving out.

In a bid to keep the long-established community from 'Going West', the Minister helped demolish the first 40 houses included in the redevelopment area, which will allow for the first phase of 36 modern, new homes to be built later this year.

Speaking in Lower Rockview Street, Donegall Road, Minister McCausland said: "Through its very name the Village has been an important community area in Belfast for any years.

"Unfortunately, the worsening housing conditions over those years led to the declaration of the Village as a redevelopment area.

"We are now seeing the start of the regeneration of this proud area through demolition of unfit housing to make way for new homes built to very high standards.

"Over coming years I am confident the Village will become attractive again and people will want to live and bring up their families here.

"To achieve this, it is vital that local people are involved in helping design the housing solutions to meet the needs of the people of the area. Gaining commitment from local people is key to building successful communities," he said,

The Minister concluded: "The first phase involving the construction of 36 new homes will get underway later this year and will be an important milestone in the journey towards a new Village."

A partner in the move is Fold, whose Chief Executive, John McLean said: "We in Fold are proud to be working alongside the Department for Social Development, the Housing Executive and local residents in taking this first step in the regeneration of the Village Area of Belfast. Fold remains committed to providing quality and affordable housing, which supports the local community."

Also commenting, NI Housing Executive Chairman Brian Rowntree welcomed the demolitions: "This is a good day for residents and will allow the regeneration of the Village to begin in earnest.

"These demolitions are the first tangible evidence of our close working with local people and will allow us to proceed with our plans for redevelopment, which we consider are the best way to sustain the Village community.

"Our proposals will not only address poor housing conditions in the area but will provide a balanced approach to the retention and improvement of existing housing as well as the provision of new build housing," he said.

Long Wait

The move has been a long time coming with a former NI Social Development Minister Margaret Ritchie making a promise in June 2007.

"I have no doubt that some of these houses are unfit for habitation. I accept this and my Department accepts this and we carefully examining the Housing Executive's proposals for renewal work. I am committed to ensuring that the housing problems are addressed as quickly as possible," she said at the time.

More recently, last January, an Ulster Unionist councillor welcomed the formal announcement of plans to re-develop the Village area. "The Minister's announcement that she has taken on board the recommendations from the Independent Inspector is most welcome.

"News that the re-development is to go ahead will give local residents much to look forward to in 2010," said Bob Stoker, councillor for the area.

"All those living in unfit homes will, at last, have something to look forward to in the New Year," he said.

See: Village Development Applauded

See: Regeneration pledge for Belfast’s Village area

(BMcC/GK)

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