Residents of the city’s Fountain Estate have voiced their collective concern about the state of derelict buildings in the area, claiming the area is beginning to look like a ‘ghetto”.
The latest concerns are highlighted in the wake of a dangerous collapse last week, when the old Ulster Unionist halls in Kennedy Place crumbled into the street. According to those living in the area, several other buildings have also been unused for years and are in varying states of disrepair.
Donna Best and Grace Curry are life-long residents of the Fountain. Ms Best said; “There have been various attempts over the years by residents groups and community associations to highlight the problem, contact owners and get something done,” she told the ‘Journal’.
Ms Curry added: “A couple of days before the building collapsed we were sitting at my kitchen table discussing how an area action plan needs to include dereliction as an issue and Donna said ‘You’re right because that old Unionist building is going to fall on top of someone.’ Little did she know how right she was.”
Lloyd Scott and Kyle Thompson also locals, have witnessed tiles falling off roofs and bits of chimney landing in the street.
“There are probably lots of buildings in the city that need repair but there are so many surrounding the Fountain that people here are in danger of serious injury or death. We were very lucky last week - it was a close call. We can’t allow it to happen again.”
Local resident Wendy Jackson believes that the Fountain is beginning to look like a “ghetto”.
“Come into the Fountain from any direction and you will see a horrible, derelict building that makes it feel like you are walking into a ghetto. People here keep their homes and gardens clean and tidy. We are being let down by these awful looking properties.”
Catherine Pollock, local community worker and resident of the Fountain said that how a place looks affects how residents, visitors and tourists feel about coming into the area.
“It would be great if we could encourage more families to move back to the Fountain but people are put off because the dereliction has got increasingly worse.”
Trevor Temple is a resident and local historian working on a book about the Fountain.
“It is a disgrace that the built heritage of this area is being allowed to fall into such a poor state that it collapses to the ground. Listed buildings should and our heritage should be protected and our elected representatives should be doing more to legislate for this. If an owner allows a building to collapse through neglect then they should have to restore it to its former state.”
But there is some hope. Recently the Drew Porter Memorial Music Society took on an empty NIHE property in Aubrey Street and has plans to improve it for use as a community facility.
John Rankin explained that the Society wanted to do something positive for the area. “Helping to put a halt to the dereliction creeping further up Wapping Lane seemed a good place to start. We’re leading by example and using our member’s skills to fix up this house. The old fire station is an excellent example of how a building can be restored to its former glory and we hope other owners take note.”