Regeneration nears important milestone

Further demolition work takes place in the Village.

The regeneration of the Village has been a long and tortuous process, but residents should be seeing real progress on the ground very soon.

Although it now looks unlikely that the promise of building getting underway by the end of 2011-12 will be fulfilled, the construction of new housing should be underway in the very near future.

While there have been legitimate concerns about the impact of regeneration on the community, I believe the overall impact will be positive. The new housing will set new standards for energy efficiency and should be studied closely by both social and private developers. In an area where fuel poverty is rife, this will make a huge difference to quality of life.

The Community Design Team, of which I am a member, has made the case for a focus on energy efficiency since its establishment in 2010. Members have also argued for good sized gardens and increased numbers of family homes, to ensure that those who move into the new houses stay. We continue to work to ensure the community open space being provided as part of the project makes a marked improvement to the local environment.

There is still much work to be done. Two phases of new housing are on the way, but another two are still planned. We need to ensure that these properties at least equal the standards of those whose construction is about to commence.

Work to improve retained housing is underway.

There are also questions to be answered about the improvement of the older housing that will not be replaced. All Housing Executive properties are to receive new kitchens and double glazing, but pressure is required to ensure that those in need of more work get it.

Meanwhile, the renovation grants programme will see many privately owned homes greatly improved. But other residents are concerned that they will be unable to afford the required contribution after means testing, while the amount of money for streetscape improvements is tiny.

The Social Development Minister must ensure that every retained property receives the improvements it needs and that there is adequate investment in the public realm, or the objectives of regeneration will only be partly achieved.

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About msimpsongpni

Mark Simpson is Environment spokesperson for the Green Party in Northern Ireland and Green Party coordinator in the Balmoral electoral area, Belfast.
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