The Irish Open clean up

ENVIRONMENT Minister Alex Attwood is considering funding a scheme that would improve the appearance of derelict sites on the north coast abandoned by developers when the property market crashed.

A motion is to be put before the assembly which will give councils the power to ensure derelict sites in towns are made safe.

The Irish Open golf event will be held in Portrush this summer.

Already work has begun sprucing up some buildings along the Promenade in Portstewart.

Mr Attwood said a short-term cash injection would help the area.

“I may well be minded to release funds in order to secure some of those sites in order to take the bad look off Portrush and Portstewart in the run down to the Irish Open,” he added.

“This is so that the message that comes out of that area is a great course, a great area, an area that is beginning to look better.

“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 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.

Speaking during a debate in the Assembly, George Robinson said: “Surely, as an Assembly, we must take positive action to ensure that the situation is rectified, not just for the sake of the people who are affected but because of the impact on the economy and the effect it will have on the future.”

John Dallat said even more could be done: “The promise to clean up Portrush and Portstewart in time for forthcoming golfing events is very welcome but government departments must come together to roll out a policy of cleaning up and making safe sites throughout East Derry and this applies equally to Coleraine, Limavady, Dungiven and every other settlement affected by the collapse of the construction industry and housing market.”

Former Coleraine mayor and MLA, Pauline Armitage commended the cleaning up work being done at the Promenade in Portstewart. “The feedback from locals is that all seem to be very happy with a job well done. It makes such a difference to the entire town.”