Sinn Féin MP Elisha McCallion has expressed concern residents of Bluebell Hill Gardens in the Brandywell may be forced to endure another winter in what she described as ‘damp ridden homes’ after learning there may be a potential six month delay in the start date for scheduled thermal insulation works.
Mrs. McCallion has written to the Northern Ireland Housing Executive (NIHE) Chief Executive, Clark Baillie, over the prospective delay less than a month after he presented the authority’s Housing Investment Plan Annual Update 2017 to members of Derry City and Strabane District Council’s Governance and Strategic Planning Committee on September 5.
Back then the report presented to councillors indicated insulation works at 11 dwellings in Bluebell Hill Gardens would be among various expected completions in Derry and Strabane in the period up to March 2018.
However, Mrs. McCallion claims the start date for the works has now been put back and may not start until next spring, the original completion date.
She said: “I have written to the Chief Executive of the Housing Executive Clark Bailie to voice my concerns at the delay in the works to the homes in the Bluebell Hill Gardens area of the city. My party colleague Colr. Patricia Logue has been working with residents on this issue for a considerable amount of time.
“At a meeting in June, the residents were advised that it was hoped that the work would begin by the end of September. I have now learned that it could be March 2018 before these works even begin.”
The Foyle MP said residents were advised in August that the scheduled insulation work, which includes plastering, insulation outside of homes, new windows, doors and roofing work, would hopefully begin by the end September.
A further programme works for the 11 Bluebell Hill Gardens dwellings is also scheduled with start dates of October 2018, for the installtion of new kitchens; April 2019, for external maintenance; and August 2019, for heating upgrades.
But Mrs. McCallion has complained that the delay in the thermal insulation works, which must precede all of these, will mean another cold, damp winter for local residents affected.
“This means these residents, many of whom have put off decorating their homes, will have to suffer yet another winter in these damp ridden dwellings.
“I am calling on the Housing Executive to deploy whatever resources they deem necessary to get these works started immediately.
“These residents have suffered for long enough without yet another delay in bringing their homes up to an acceptable living standard.
“The confidence in the Housing Executive delivering this project is being seriously damaged by these delays.
“A full review of how this project is being managed needs to be carried out and it is the responsibility of the management of the Housing Executive to inform the residents of the reasons why these works are being delayed yet again. I have asked the H.E for a response on this issue as a matter of urgency.”
A Housing Executive spokesperson said the delay to the scheduled works was precipitated by the discovery that work was required to more dwellings than originally estimated.
The spokesperson said: “The delay in the commencement of works in Bluebill Hill Gardens is due to the fact that more works were required to the properties than was first envisaged.
“The contract is currently out to tender and we expect to be on site early in the new year.”
The Housing Executive said it realised the delay would cause disappointment for residents but added that it had to follow the correct procurement processes in order to deliver large works schemes.
“We apologise for the delay in the delivery of this scheme and we understand that while the timescale may be disappointing, complex capital schemes such as this have long development, approval and procurement stages, and it is important that we take the necessary time to prepare and deliver a comprehensive scheme that will fully address all of the issues in the properties to the satisfaction of our tenants,” the spokesperson said.