Magilligan thatched cottage concerns

Mark Canning at the cottage at Magilligan. (file pic)
Mark Canning at the cottage at Magilligan. (file pic)
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Magilligan siblings who have lived in an 18th century thatched cottage all their lives may have to move out temporarily for safety reasons, a relative has said.

Edward Quigley (69), and his sister Eileen (72) have lived all their lives in the cottage without running water or electricity. Mark Canning said his aunt and uncle are happy in the cottage, but now he said he has to look for alternative accommodation for them due to safety concerns. Mr Canning hopes there will be grant assistance for the repairs, which are significant.

The siblings’ plight has been brought to the attention of the Envionment Minister Mark H Durkan who visited the Quigleys’ following roof damage earlier this year.

Mr Durkan has said some assistance may be provided by his Department for repairs, an option currently being explored.

“I recognise the very difficult situation in which the owners find themselves,” he said. “The possibility of providing the temporary assistance of a CITB joiner, employed by my Department, is also being explored, but cannot be progressed until a structural engineer has reviewed and updated a report on structural matters.”

The minister said the Department has powers to provide grant assistance to owners to support them in regard to repairs; “however, as I have previously explained, in light of overall budgetary pressures, funds are not currently available for such support”.

A DOE spokesperson said: “Officials continue to work with the owners’ agents, to explore how they can provide support and advice to the owners.

“The most pressing issue is to provide suitable accommodation for the owners. This is, as you will appreciate, not primarily a matter for the Department, but officials have remained in contact with other agencies to ensure that they are aware of the difficult situation the owners find themselves in.

“In regard to the restoration of the property, officials are currently in liaison with the owners’ newly appointed conservation architect for the project, who will oversee the necessary approvals and consents to effect repairs to the property. We understand that the owners’ agent met with the structural engineer on site on 1 December to carry out a further assessment of the structure of the cottage; his report is imminent and the agent will then allow determination of what temporary works are appropriate and who is best placed to undertake them.

“This is within the context that the primary responsibility for the maintenance and protection of a building lies with the building’s owners.”

Speaking in the Assembly recently, Minister Durkan, in response to a question from DUP MLA George Robinson, also said he was not aware of “any delays in grant being made available in this case”. He said officials recently reviewed in detail the interaction with the owners and their agents over a number of years, in order to respond to letters from you regarding this property.

“The records show that my officials have repeatedly advised the owners, since at least 2006, to submit an application for listed building grant. My officials have also sent application forms to the owners,” said Minister Durkan.

“A completed application was received on 19 January 2015, by which stage reductions in my Department’s budget had meant that we had had to cease processing applications for listed building grant for privately owned properties.”