There is now a backlog of over 80 development sites across Derry and Strabane which have yet to be adopted, it has been revealed.
The shocking statistic was revealed at a special meeting of Derry City & Strabane District Council’s Environment and Regeneration Committee in the Guildhall on Wednesday.
The committee was addressed by Transport NI’s (formerly Roads Service) Network Planning Manager Darren Campbell and Senior Development Control Officer Lorraine McWilliams on Private Streets and the Unadopted Sites Backlog.
Mr Campbell told the committee that these properties affected included many constructed during the building boom and prior to the economic collapse.
Private Streets legislation is designed to protect homeowners and ensure that streets are completed to a proper standard by a developer, and that Transport NI inspected the construction process, and adoption is supposed to take place one year of approval of the finished development, if no issues have arisen within that year.
“The Department needs to be satisfied that it the street is right and proper to become a public road,” Mr Campbell said.
Ms McWilliams meanwhile told the Council that within a development you could have more than one phases or bonds.
There are 100 developments in the Derry & Strabane area are considered to have been started but not completed/ adopted.
AN unadopted backlog site is defined, she added, as one where a preliminary certificate has not been issued within a year of the housing phase being 80% occupied, and / or a final certificate has not been issued within 18 months of the Preliminary Certificate being issued.
Strabane has 39 such sites within 34 developments, while there are 44 in Derry contained within 26 developments. Of the Derry sites, 30 are Priority One, and the remaining six Priority Two.
She said that enforcement is considered where the developer fails to complete the works, but is “resource intensive and takes some time to complete”.
Once enforcement is decided upon, notice is decided on the developer and they have 28 days to appeal on the grounds they are not responsible.
She added that in terms of Derry, Sevenoaks in the Waterside has now been adopted, while Victoria Gate, the works are complete and the final progression is in progress and the final adoption is expected to be progressed.
There has also been movement towards progressing Ardan Road.
Sinn Fein Councillor Tony Hassan raised questions over Sandale Park in Shantallow and said it was “unbelievable” it has not been adopted.
Referring to the list of unadopted areas, he added that Thornhill Park “has been up since probably the mid-90s”, and queried how in other developments Transport NI could force developers who have gone bust to finish developments.
Mr Hassan said that if it was taking around a decade to get developments adopted then there was something wrong.
His party colleague Christopher Jackson said there were a number of estates in the Waterside affected. He said the developer at Woodside Heights has been working with Water NI and Transport NI as well as himself to get the earlier phases adopted, but added that there seemed to be delays in getting responses from officials.
He said that people in that area were looking to get salt boxes with the cold weather in and queried how long they would have to wait before such facilities would be installed.
He added that Distillery Close has been “like a building site for the last 18 months”, with replies and correspondence also being awaited here.
Mr Campbell, responding to Colr. Hassan, said that when a developer goes bankrupt, the person who became the surety for the bond will be contacted. He added however that where administrators had been appointed that there was “a lot of frustration” in trying to dealing with them.
DUP Councillor Hilary McClintock raised the issue of Copperthorpe in Drumahoe where she said people were having “massive problems”, not least those trying to sell their homes.
Her party colleague Maurice Devenney added: “We have house owners who do not even have public lighting. Some of them don’t even have roads. It is a fight and a battle to get that sorted out. The issue then that really exercises people is they can’t even get their bins emptied because the roads aren’t adopted.
“They are paying rates at the end of the day,” he said. “They bought their house with good intentions.”
Concerns were raised that the separation of issues around water works and roads may be hampering progress.
SDLP Councillor Martin Reilly queried how often Transport NI was in contact with NI Water and was told that this was on a daily basis.