North Coast derelict buildings set for brighter future

By NATASHA MILLAR
The Metropole Portrush was destroyed in a fire in 2009

Derelict properties in Portrush and Portstewart could get a facelift under plans revealed at Stormont on Tuesday.The buildings have caused concern within the community and one local councillor believes profit seeking at the height of the boom is behind the problem.

DUP Councillor Norman Hillis says the derelict buildings which have blighted the seaside resorts are due to “developer greed”. Mr Hillis, a prominent businessman in Portrush, said many of these properties where purchased at the height of the market and the owners now have no cash to improve their appearance.

“Sadly the result of this, is that important key sites are now dragging both towns down and are a source of widespread criticism throughout Northern Ireland,” said Councillor Hillis. “I do feel that these sites are an embarrassment to us all.” Councillor Hillis’ comments come just a day after the Environment Minister signalled a cash injection could be provided to give local councils the power to deal with such properties.

Speaking to the Assembly on Tuesday, Alex Attwood said he would consider funding a scheme to improve the appearance of buildings which have been abandoned by developers in the property crash. At present neither the Executive nor local councils have the power to make these sites safe or improve their appearance.

Councillor Hillis welcomed the possible cash boost from the Executive, which could provide a short term solution. “There is great need for action in Portrush and Portstewart as both towns are suffering from the result of what I call developer greed,” said Councillor Hillis. “A cash injection to sort this out this mess to my mind would prove a huge success”.

With major international events on the horizon for the North Coast, such as the Irish Open, the North West 200 and the International Airshow, a possible face lift for the area has met widespread praise from residents and councillors. Independent Councillor Christine Alexander described the situation as an ‘enormous problem’ on the coastal fringes of the Coleraine Borough. She said it was a constant cause of complaint for her constituents and she was “delighted” at any plans to improve their appearance.

Councillor Alexander was instrumental in starting a scheme which last year raised in excess of £30,000 and painted over 40 derelict buildings. The voluntary scheme was funded entirely by local residents and businesses, including a cash donation from US Open champion Graeme McDowell.

“We have just commenced a similar project to continue to ‘Paint Portrush’ this year and hope the Minister’s announcement will complement this,” said Councillor Alexander.

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