In response to an Assembly Question from East Belfast DUP MLA Robin Newton, the Communities Minister confirmed her intention to demolish, sell-off or refurbish all 33 NIHE high-rise tower blocks. Mr Newton the Minister must provide clarity and certainty for the residents who will be impacted by this, including within his constituency.
Commenting, Mr Newton said, “It was back in 2018 that plans were first proposed to demolish all tower blocks in Northern Ireland and were agreed in March 2019. In response to my question the Minister has confirmed the intention to proceed with these plans. The first phase of this would be the demolition or disposal of 14 blocks within a 1 to 5-year timescale.
Given the time which has already elapsed since the initial plans were announced and the pressures on public finance, these are ambitious plans. However, it is not just an issue of the tower blocks themselves, but of when the new-build homes will be ready for residents who are impacted.
In East Belfast there have only been 132 new homes constructed within the past three years, and there are many current residents of tower blocks who are concerned about the future. The Minister will need to outline when new homes will be ready for residents who would be displaced by the plans for demolition of the towers.
For those residents impacted by ‘phase 2’ of the plan covering a 6 to 10-year timescale decisions must be made on the future of seven tower blocks and repairs will need to be made to homes during this period.
Every week my office deals with single people, senior citizens and families who are in need of suitable housing. With demand already high, the Minister must announce how she intends to ensure those on the waiting list can be accommodated alongside those who would be displaced by plans for tower blocks.’