DRD urged to sell off vacant A2 dwellings

The Department for Regional Development is being urged to help reduce anti-social behaviour by selling off vacant property on part of the A2.

The appeal from East Antrim Ulster MLA Roy Beggs follows a fire at an empty dwelling along the route last month.

Mr Beggs wrote to Regional Development Minister Michelle McIlveen in the aftermath of the incident calling on the department to release land and 17 houses on the Shore Road for sale.

He pointed out that the suspected arson attack on December 20 resulted in closure of the A2 carriageway owing to levels of smoke.

He continued: “The property has been described as one of the ‘abandoned’ properties beside the A2.

“Can you please confirm if this property was one of the properties vested as part of the A2 road widening scheme and whether or not it remained in public ownership?

“Can you please also confirm whether or not all the vested properties have, as of yet, been sold back into the private sector? If not, how many remain in public ownership? If the process of selling these properties has not been completed, can you advise what progress has been made to date and when you expect all properties to be sold?”

Responding to the Ulster Unionist representative, the minister confirmed her department had acquired a number of properties along the route of the A2 Shore Road scheme, mainly under blight legislation.

She said: “Following completion of the scheme, 17 houses and seven sites became available for disposal and are being progressed through the government disposal process, with the aim of completing as many sales as possible by the end of this financial year.

“The sale of these properties will make a significant contribution towards my department’s £3.25 million 2015/16 Capital Receipts Income Target.”

A total of four fire engines were deployed to deal with the blaze, which was believed to be deliberate, at the semi-detached property. The fire caused the closure of the arterial route on that morning and disruption for motorists.

In a statement to the Carrick Times this week, Mr Beggs added: “The sooner the houses and sites are once more occupied, the sooner that a normal community can be re-established in the area.

“It is my firm belief that if these properties were occupied again, then the associated risk of anti-social behaviour and arson attacks would be minimised.

“In addition, given the financial climate, I believe that it would be much better if the capital involved was recouped and re-invested in other publicly funded projects.”

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