Abandoned sites must be cleared - Dallat

SDLP Assembly Member John Dallat is calling for abandoned, partly-cleared and cleared sites in East Derry to be cleaned up and made safe.

The MLA says the issue is not just an urban one, but affects most towns, villages, hamlets and single sites in the rural areas, including many in East Derry.

He said:”The tragic death of little Phil Hogan who drowned in water on a ghost estate in Athlone has brought home to us the real need to address a problem which has been festering in every settlement not just in urban areas but throughout the rural areas including many in East Derry.

“Clearly the legislation which empowers local councils to take action is hopelessly out of date and hasn’t been reviewed since 1873. However the issue of abandoned building sites is not just one for local councils but for several government departments that can do much to secure these sites and avoid another death such as that of the little toddler in Athlone.

“Throughout East Derry there are sites in various states of demolition and rebuilding. On one site the environmental issues are not just about the danger of children falling into holes but the health hazards attached to particles of dust, lime and sand blowing about every time there is high winds.

“There are examples of unfinished roads, unsecure street lights as well as the visual impact which these sites have had on the local environment.

“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.

“I welcome efforts made by local communities to address these issues but it is not their responsibility alone but requires initiatives from government departments and their agencies to being the clean-up which cannot be left simply as a legacy of a period in time which collapsed in heartache for the developers and the communities that are now left with the problem.”