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Maskey to discuss proposals to tackle Holyland problems with South Belfast residents groups

15 April, 2009 - by Alex Maskey

South Belfast Sinn Féin MLA Alex Maskey will, next Tuesday, meet with a number of residents groups in South Belfast to discuss his proposals to tackle the problems associated with the Holyland area. Alex Maskey has also tabled a Private Members Bill in the Assembly to discuss the issue.

Speaking in advance of the meeting he stressed that these problems are not exclusive to the Holylands, but rather they affect all of the communities surrounding Queens University.

The South Belfast MLA said, “The other week I attended a meeting of the Queens University Neighbourhood Advisory Forum. This forum was established to help improve relations between Queens University and the surrounding communities. Undoubtedly, the behaviour of a minority of students, not all from Queens University it must be noted, has become one of the main recurring themes of these meetings.

“While the behaviour of a minority of students is part of the problem, it is not the sole cause. Overcrowding, lack of community infrastructure and investment are also part of a wider problem. While these problems are at their most acute in the Holyland area, similar problems are beginning to develop in other communities in South Belfast. It is therefore in the interests of all of these communities to work together to tackle the root causes of these problems.

“While the local communities have a key role to play I am firmly of the opinion that a long-term resolution of this issue can only be brought about through a high profile Executive intervention and working in conjunction with landlords, residents, community leaders, politicians and the Universities. I have discussed a number of ideas with various Ministers but it is clear that Executive intervention will only be brought about by the South Belfast communities who are affected by these issues standing together and calling for such an intervention”.

He concluded, “At the Neighbourhood Advisory Forum meeting I made a number of specific proposals which I believe could go some way towards tackling these problems. Next week I will be discussing these proposals with a number of residents groups and it is my hope that we can chart a way forward which will see these proposals brought to life. I have also tabled a Private Members Bill at the Assembly to raise this issue and to allow for it to be debated at Assembly level”. CRÍOCH

Note to editors: The following are the proposals put forward by Alex Maskey MLA at the Queens University Neighbourhood Advisory Forum, which he will be discussing next week with residents groups in South Belfast: * A lead minister should be appointed or agree to take forward the necessary measures to protect, maintain and reclaim the residential character of the Holyland area. This minister should preferably be the minister for the DSD given the statutory obligations of this department in respect of sustaining residential communities. * The area should be designated/zoned within legislation as an area of special needs given the specific and multiple problems associated with long term unregulated HMO/Apartment developments. This designation could apply exclusively to the Holyland area or be extended as appropriate following consultation with residents and stakeholders in the wider area. * A compulsory interest/working group should be established by the minister to include all relevant stakeholders eg, government departments, BCC, education establishments, landlords housing bodies/associations, police. * The remit for this initiative should be time-bound and responsible for bringing forward proposals to transform the area from an unregulated housing mess and open air campus into a managed full time residential/part-time/temporary accommodation neighbourhood. Measures to be considered should include gated residential community/ies, managed student accommodation, housing ownership/tenancies transfer to/or between private and public ownership, provision of social/affordable housing, support for first time buyers, housing management consortiums, dedicated public safety staff.

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