Work on the Lower Oldpark Courts' Project is now not expected to start until the early part of April 2020.
Two weeks ago, Lower Oldpark Community Association (LOCA) reported below it had been informed that work on the scheme was expected to begin in January 2020. However, on 5th November 2019, the Department for Communities (DfC) informed LOCA that there would be a further delay until April 2020.
The courts affected are Foyle, Shannon, (plus 1-11 Shannon Street), Bann, Liffey, Bandon, Manor and Southport.
While this is, of course, a disappointment, no one who follows these things will be at all surprised given the significant and unacceptable delays to this scheme over the years.
Some Lower Oldpark residents who have spoken to LOCA are interested in when work will start in their courts. This information will be contained in a scheme schedule of work but this won't be finalised until a contractor for the work has been appointed, hopefully in February or March 2020.
LOCA has asked the DfC to make sure that Information/ Consultation Sessions are held for the residents of each court before the contractor goes on site. This will enable residents to receive important information about the planned work and the arrangements that will be put in place to reduce disruption. It will also give residents the chance to ask questions and have their concerns addressed.
For further information, contact the Lower Oldpark Housing Project Worker, Gary Hughes, on 02890351334 or email firstname.lastname@example.org .
Shannon Court. One of seven Lower Oldpark courts expected to benefit from planned improvement works.
The planned Lower Oldpark Courts' Project environmental improvement scheme is expected to start in January 2020.
Lower Oldpark Community Association (LOCA) received this latest update on the much delayed scheme during a meeting of the Lower Oldpark Building Successful Community (BSC) Forum on 11th October 2019.
Planning approval from Belfast City Council for work to replace the shared surfaces at the front of the houses in seven residential courts has been granted. The courts affected are Foyle, Shannon, (plus 1-11 Shannon Street), Bann, Liffey, Bandon, Manor and Southport.
Submission of the planning applications in 2018 was delayed due to an error by the scheme consultants Aecom. Scheme progress was also held back by the Northern Ireland Housing Executive (NIHE) that was slow to start the process of identifying ownership of the many small pieces of land to be transferred between organisations as part of the scheme.
Lower Oldpark residents will be notified in good time about when work will be starting in their court. The scheme consultants and the appointed contractor will liaise with local residents and Lower Oldpark Community Association (LOCA) before work starts and when it is ongoing. LOCA expects that every effort will be made to minimise the disruption to residents.
LOCA believes that the delays in the scheme to date have been totally unacceptable but it also hopes that, in the end, the improvements will provide Lower Oldpark residents with a safer, more modern and more attractive environment in which to live.
Southport Court - One of Seven Lower Oldpark Courts to Benefit From the Planned Courts Project
Friday 11th October 2019 saw the final meeting of the Lower Oldpark Building Successful (BSC)Communities Forum.
This Forum was established in 2014 by the Department for Communities (DfC) to 'take work forward and develop a plan with tailor-made economic, physical and social interventions to meet community needs'. It was one of six forums established for six BSC Pilot areas in Belfast and Ballymena.
The Forum was intended to bring together representatives of Lower Oldpark Community Association, the Housing Executive, DfC, housing associations, elected representatives and representatives from education, health and the voluntary sector. In practice, participation in the Forum was more limited than this.
In August 2019, the Department for Communities said that, in respect to the above role, BSC Forums had served their purpose. It also said that the three Lower Oldpark BSC sub-groups in existence were sufficient to continue to progress and implement the three 'Catalyst' regeneration projects in Lower Oldpark.
In response, LOCA advised BSC that it supported the ending of the quarterly BSC Forum meetings. In advising DfC of this, LOCA referred back to a letter it had sent to DfC in June 2018 in which it had said, 'BSC sees itself, and not the Forum, as the decision-maker. It is clear to LOCA that its BSC Forum representatives and other non-BSC Forum members are only window dressing.'
At a BSC Forum meeting on 11th October 2019, the Lower Oldpark BSC Forum agreed to dissolve itself.
Work on pushing forward six regeneration schemes in Lower Oldpark, including housing development on five sites, will be carried out by four regeneration groups. LOCA will do its best to ensure that progress is much better than during the years of little progress under the BSC initiative in Lower Oldpark.
Department for Communities - Building Successful Communities Office Belfast
A Lower Oldpark affordable housing scheme has received the go ahead following approval of a Housing Development Grant application by the Department for Communities and the Department of Finance.
The proposed development of five, family homes by Apex Housing on the open space site at the junction of Oldpark Road and Cliftonpark Avenue received planning approval in May 2016.
At a meeting on 11th October 2019, Lower Community Association was informed that a contract for Housing Development Grant (HDG) funding had been issued to Apex Housing. The purpose of HDG is to reduce the cost of building the houses, therefore making them more affordable.
A decision from Apex Housing on proceeding with the development is awaited.
The scheme has been blighted by major delays. The Department of Communities began looking at the development of HDG in 2015 but a final policy was not approved until 2018.
During the summer of 2018, Apex Housing sought tenders from contractors to build the five affordable homes but, following the submission of tenders, was unable to appoint a contractor. Early 2019, Apex carried out a second tender process for a contractor to build the houses and, on this occasion, an acceptable tender was received. However, the Department for Communities and the Department of Finance had to look again at whether HDG could be paid. The final hurdle was Department of Finance approval and this was received on 9th October 2019.
Plans for Five, Affordable Family Homes At Oldpark Road/ Cliftonpark Avenue Junction
A proposal for the development of a block of 14 apartments on the front of the Crumlin Road received planning approval from Belfast City Council Planning Department in June 2019.
The four and a half storey building will be developed on the vacant site (205-211 Crumlin Road) lying between Albertville Drive and Yarrow Street.
Vehicular access to the development will be from Yarrow Street while pedestrian access will be from the Crumlin Road.
The planning application was first submitted by GAD Developments Ltd of Tandragee in April 2017. An amended application was submitted in June 2018 while a further amended application was received by the Council in March 2019.
In May 2017, Lower Oldpark Community Association (LOCA) and a number of Albertville Drive, Yarrow Street and Yarrow Court residents submitted letters objecting to the planning application. A number of residents submitted further letters of objection to the amended planning application in August 2018. LOCA informed local residents about the latest planning application and their right to comment on it in June 2019.
The concerns of LOCA and residents were focused on the height of the building, the potential shading impact it would have on the homes to the rear and the adequacy of parking provision for residents of the new development and visitors to the proposed ground floor commercial units.
LOCA wrote to GAD Developments Ltd on 22nd August 2018 to request a meeting in relation to the development proposals and to discuss the company's letting/ sales policy in the event of planning permission being obtained and the development going ahead. LOCA is keen that any apartment development on the Crumlin Road takes place in consultation with the local community and, once in place, is well managed, with minimum turnover and good behaviour on the part of the occupants.
LOCA will keep residents updated.
205-211 Crumlin Road Planned Apartment Block
The planned Lower Oldpark Courts' Project environmental improvement scheme might start in November 2019.
Lower Oldpark Community Association (LOCA) received this latest update on the much delayed scheme during a meeting of the Lower Oldpark Building Successful Community Forum on 10th May 2019.
Planning approval from Belfast City Council for work to replace the shared surfaces at the front of the houses in seven residential courts is still awaited. The courts affected are Foyle, Shannon, (plus 1-11 Shannon Street), Bann, Liffey, Bandon, Manor and Southport.
Seven planning applications for the work were submitted by the scheme consultants, Aecom, in August 2018. This followed a delay of six months to the submission of the applications resulting from an error by the consultants.
Progress was also delayed by the Northern Ireland Housing Executive that was slow to start the process of identifying ownership of the many small pieces of land to be transferred between organisations as part of the scheme. LOCA has been advised that this process is now almost complete. Once planning approval has been obtained, a process to begin the extinguishment of rights over the land, as required, will begin. This is expected to take about four months.
The threat of the Courts' Project not going ahead has been reduced by approval being given for the Department for Social Development (DfC) budget which includes funding for the Lower Oldpark Courts' Project. It has also been reduced by the DfC internal approval of the business case for the scheme.
The long delays to the start of work on the Courts' Project are part of the pattern of long and unacceptable delays to every element of the Lower Oldpark housing and physical regeneration process.
The Courts' Project is a DfC Catalyst Project, as are the two proposed development schemes at the Crumlin Road/ Cliftonpark Avenue/ Oldpark Road junctions. All three schemes have been subject to long and unacceptable delays. LOCA believes that the Building Successful Communities housing led regeneration process has failed, and continues to fail, the people of Lower Oldpark. The first formal meeting the Lower Oldpark Building Successful Communities Forum took place in August 2014. Almost five years and 27 Forum meetings later, not one brick of one new home has been laid. For a government initiative that involves housing led regeneration, this is a truly poor performance.
The people of Lower Oldpark have indicated how they want to see the open, green space at the junction of Cliftonpark Avenue and Crumlin Road developed.
Lower Oldpark Community Association (LOCA) carried out a survey of all households in the neighbourhood. during April 2019. Residents were provided with two options and the majority of those who responded chose the second option which would involve the NIHE transferring the site to Apex Housing Association for the development of ten, semi-detached, affordable houses. Thirty six out of fifty respondents (72 percent) who returned their completed survey form chose this option.
The first option on the survey form was selected by 14 out of 50 respondents (28 percent). This option would involve the release , by the Northern Ireland Housing Executive (NIHE) of the site on the open market with no specification of what should be developed on it. It was stated on the survey form that, if this approach was followed, it might lead to the development of five new private houses and a petrol station/ retail unit on the site but that it might also result in a developer obtaining the site and building whatever they can obtain planning permission for.
The survey results show a clear majority in favour of the development of ten houses on the site by Apex Housing. However, the results must be treated with some caution because the response rate of 12 percent was low. Completed survey forms were received by the submission deadline from 50 households out of 410.
LOCA has informed the NIHE of the results that indicate a significant lack of support for its proposal to release the site on the open market with no specification of what should be developed on it.
LOCA continues to support the approach agreed by all those involved in the process from 2016. This approach, which was abandoned by the NIHE in February 2018, would have ensured the development of the ten houses and a new petrol station/ retail unit on the site without the risk of any other sort of development on it.
Crumlin Road/ Cliftonpark Avenue junction site.
A final decision on whether an affordable housing scheme by Apex Housing at the junction of Cliftonpark Avenue and Oldpark Road can go ahead is expected to take at least six months.
Lower Oldpark Community Association (LOCA) was given this depressing information during the latest meeting of the Lower Oldpark Building Successful Communities Forum on 10th May 2019.
The proposed housing scheme on the currently open, green site, involves the development of five affordable, owner-occupier houses.
On 10th May 2019, LOCA was advised that a process to decide whether Housing Development Grant can be paid by the Department for Communities will take at least six months. The purpose of the Grant is to reduce the cost of building the houses, therefore making them more affordable.
This six month delay follows a second tender process in early 2019 for the appointment of a contractor to build the houses. An initial tender process during the summer of 2018 didn't result in a building contractor being appointed.
Planning approval for the development of the five houses was granted in November 2015. If the Department for Communities (DfC) and Department of Finance (DoF) approve Housing Development Grant for the scheme, it will probably be early 2020 before work could begin. If these government departments don't approve the Grant, it seems very likely that the scheme will be abandoned. Another important consideration is the fact that planning approval for the scheme expires five years after the planning approval date, namely, 24th November 2020.
For years, LOCA has supported this Building Successful Communities Catalyst Project housing development scheme and lobbied hard for speedy progress. LOCA's confidence in the ability of those leading the process has, for some time, been declining. Now, it has all but gone.
Cliftonpark Avenue/ Oldpark Road Development Site
Inaction by Belfast City Council and Choice Housing mean that alley gates won’t be provided at the entrances to an Oldpark Road alleyway.
In 2017, in response to reports of anti-social behavior in the alleyway running from Oldpark Road to Century Street, Lower Oldpark Community Association (LOCA) asked Belfast City Council (BCC) to provide gates at the entrances. The Council said that the alleyway wasn’t part of the Phase 4 alleygating scheme it planned for Belfast and that there was no real prospect of getting the alleyway gated under Phase 4 as all the money had been identified by Councillors for gates in North Belfast.
LOCA, in co-operation with BCC, contacted Choice Housing, the owner of eight houses that back onto the alleyway, to request their financial support to cover the cost of the provision of the gates. The matter then passed to BCC and Choice Housing which requested detailed costings for the work from BCC some time during the first half of 2018.
BCC provided Choice with a quote for two gates on 1st October 2018 but didn’t hear back from it so it sent a reminder on 16th October 2018. Instead of pursuing Choice Housing further for a response, BCC took no further action. It explained this inaction by saying that it was unable to delay the Belfast wide consultation period any longer due to the need to get the gate order placed. However, this is inconsistent with the fact that BCC continued its consultation until mid-January 2019. This means that there had been three months during which BCC could have contacted Choice Housing, but didn’t. The BCC officer dealing with the issue told LOCA that, as BCC wasn’t the scheme sponsor, it didn’t feel the need to chase after Choice Housing for a response.
The Choice Housing officer dealing with the issue has acknowledged that it was a failure on Choice’s part for not responding to the correspondence from BCC in October 2018. It contacted BCC in March 2019 to ask if the Oldpark Road gates scheme could still be included in the Belfast wide Phase 4 scheme. In its response, BCC introduced a new issue linked to problems of vehicular access to the alleyway. This issue had never been highlighted to LOCA previously. BCC also said that it appreciated there was an issue of anti-social behavior in the area and that it hoped to revisit the proposal in the future, should a Phase 5 Alleygating Scheme gain funding from the Council. It stated that this was likely to be 2020/21 at the earliest.
In the meantime, the people of Lower Oldpark have lost out.
No alley gates for Oldpark Road walkway
Lower Oldpark residents are helping to shape the future development of their neighbourhood by completing a consultation questionnaire.
Every Lower Oldpark household received a questionnaire yesterday giving them the opportunity to choose how the open, green space at the Cliftonpark Avenue/ Crumlin Road junction may be developed.
Completed questionnaires are being returned to Lower Oldpark Community Association (LOCA) which is carrying out the consultation exercise.
Residents have two options to choose from.
Option 1 would involve the release, by the Northern Ireland Housing Executive (NIHE), of the Crumlin Road/ Cliftonpark Avenue junction site on the open market with no specification of what should be developed on it.
If this approach is followed, it might lead to a development of five new private houses and a new petrol station/ retail unit on the site. However, it might also result in a developer obtaining the site and building whatever they can obtain planning permission for.
Option 2 would involve the NIHE transferring the site to Apex Housing Association for the development of ten, semi-detached affordable houses. Planning approval for this development was obtained in August 2017.
LOCA hopes to make available the result of the consultation process shortly after Easter 2019.
For more information about the consultation, contact the Lower Oldpark Housing Project Worker, Gary Hughes, at 9-23 Avoca Street or by phoning 02890351334 or by emailing email@example.com
Open space site at Cliftonpark Avenue/ Crumlin Road junction subject to community consultation
Storage containers left, without permission, on open space in Lower Oldpark have finally been removed.
Four units were left on the open, green space at Alloa Street by a sub-contractor called Neilan that was carrying out work for a contractor in another area of North Belfast. The contractor was working for the Northern Ireland Housing Executive (NIHE). Following pressure from Lower Oldpark Community Association (LOCA) and local people, the NIHE secured the removal of the storage units by Neilan during March 2019. Local people have expressed their relief at the removal of the units that were posing a danger to children who were playing on, and around, them. The containers were also encouraging rubbish dumping in the area.
A storage container abandoned on the open, green space at Mountview Street has also been removed following pressure from LOCA and local residents. LOCA is unaware of who this unit belonged to. It also attracted children and generated rubbish dumping. It had also been set alight.
Mountview open, green space where shipping container was previously abandoned.
The Housing Executive (NIHE) North Belfast Area Manager met with building contractors Neilan this morning and received an assurance that storage containers it left on open space at Alloa Street will be removed by Monday 4th March 2019.
This development follows the submission of a Freedom of Information request by Lower Oldpark Community Association (LOCA) to the NIHE on 21st February 2019.
LOCA and local residents have been highlighting the issue of the containers to the NIHE since last year when Neilan left the containers on the site without permission from the NIHE, the owners of the land.
Neilan has been using the containers to store materials while it carries out work on a scheme outside the Lower Oldpark neighbourhood.
LOCA will continue to monitor the situation and keep the community updated.
A Freedom of Information (FOI) request has been made by Lower Oldpark Community Association (LOCA) to the Northern Ireland Housing Executive (NIHE) in connection with storage containers left on NIHE land in Lower Oldpark by a building contractor.
The containers were left on the NIHE owned land at Alloa Street last year by contractor Neilan which is carrying out work for Mascot outside the Lower Oldpark neighbourhood. This scheme was supposed to finish on 22nd February 2019
The FOI request by LOCA is in response to the failure of Neilan to remove the containers despite requests from the NIHE.
LOCA asked for the following information:
The NIHE advised LOCA that it told Neilan to remove the containers by 14th February 2019 but the contractor failed to do so. This morning, the containers were still in place. They were left in Lower Oldpark by Neilan without the permission of the NIHE.
LOCA has been highlighting the problem to the NIHE since it arose last year (see news article on this page on 31.1.19 and 15.2.19 below).
Unauthorised Neilan containers attracting rubbish dumping.
Efforts by Lower Oldpark Community Association (LOCA) and Lower Shankill Community Association (LSCA) to secure progress on the development of housing on the Girdwood site continue.
An open space site fronting onto Cliftonpark Avenue between 69 and the entrance to the Girdwood Centre is the preferred site for new housing that would form part of the Lower Oldpark community.
LOCA and LSCA are represented on the Girdwood Community Forum and have raised the issue of housing development on the site on a number of occasions. No progress on securing the start of a development process has been made. Sites within the Girdwood complex for non-housing uses have been given a higher priority by statutory bodies than the housing site fronting onto Cliftonpark Avenue.
LOCA is currently pushing hard to secure progress on the development of new housing on five other sites within the Lower Oldpark neighbourhood. This has, and continues to be, very challenging.
LOCA Housing will continue to keep the community informed by way of this web page, its Facebook page and by newsletter.
For more information, call into the office at 9-23 Avoca Street, ring us on 028 90351334 or email us on firstname.lastname@example.org .
Potential housing development site on Girdwood site.
Lower Oldpark Community Association (LOCA) will be seeking the views of residents on how to tackle the garden maintenance problems experienced by many local people.
A consultation session will be held in the portacabin at Lower Oldpark Community Centre, 9-23 Avoca Street, on Tuesday 26th February 2019 between 7.00pm and 8.00pm.
During the consultation session, residents will be able to see the results of the major garden maintenance survey carried out in Lower Oldpark by LOCA between October and December 2018.
The results are contained in a report called 'Lower Oldpark Garden Survey 2018 Report'. Residents will also be able to put forward their ideas for an Action Plan to help tackle the garden problems.
For more information , call into Lower Oldpark Community Centre at 9-23 Avoca Street or call 02890351334 or email email@example.com .
LOCA would love to see you come along.
Lower Oldpark residents have a second chance to influence how open space land beside 62 Cliftonpark Avenue might be developed.
Consultation sessions will be held in the portacabin at Lower Oldpark Community Centre in Avoca Street on Thursday 21st February 2019 between 3.00pm and 5.00pm and between 6.30pm and 7.30pm.
Draft plans prepared by consultants, Paul Hogarth Co, will be on display and people will be able to say what they think and to propose changes.
The first consultation sessions took place on Tuesday 12th February 2019 and these produced some exciting ideas on how the land could be used. Based on these ideas, the consultants have produced draft plans.
Lower Oldpark Community Association (LOCA) is encouraging all residents to come along and have their say.
Funding for the development of the outline plans by Paul Hogarth Co is being provided by the NIHE through it Community Support Fund.
For more information , call into Lower Oldpark Community Centre at 9-23 Avoca Street or call 02890351334 or email firstname.lastname@example.org .
Cliftonpark Avenue potential development site.
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