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Cavehill Residents Ready for Action
Story by: Fiona Brady

Cavehill Road residents this week reacted angrily to what they say is a lack of action to curb the growing number of derelict houses in the area. Spurred on by the growing problem of private developments local people have now formed the Cavehill Residents Action Group.More than 100 residents recently attended the group's first public meeting at Cavehill Bowling Club which was addressed by Alban Maginness, Danny Lavery, Tom Campbell and Gerry Kelly. And CRAG spokesman Michael McCann said that the group's battle to get accountability over future private developments In the Cavehill area had received widespread support. "The local politicians who addressed our first meeting were very supportive of our campaign and backed our complaint that there is a lack of accountability when it comes to planning.  "The planners' decisions frequently go against the wishes of local residents. "Residents have now organised themselves effectively into this new group and will now lobby statutory agencies in a bid to bring about positive change in the area. "This was once a beautiful part of Belfast. But increasingly we are being left with property speculators buying up homes and then letting them fall down so that they can build new apartments without having to worry about keeping with the look of the area. "Ruthless developers are buying this land and in effect using it as a land bank.

"Once in the hands of the private developers the statutory agencies refuse to do anything to make the landowners account- able for the land.
"Problems in the area began when some of the large Eiderdown Houses in the area were sold to planners to build large numbers of town houses. "The ruthless landowners believe that if they leave the sites empty for long enough local people will be so relieved when they finally do start to develop they will not object.
"The worst of the problems occur at the site were two beautiful houses once stood. They were knocked down over ten years ago. "One local woman was badly injured after tripping on the overgrown hedgerows around the site. "Despite this the land has still not been developed. and lies in the same state almost a decade on. "That particular site has now become home to drug users and underage drinkers. who use the site to have parties." And Michael McCann warned that the Cavehill area was fast becoming a no-go zone for families after dark. "Local people are too afraid to let their children out to play for fear of the debris and drug taking paraphernalia that these people leave behind.

"On several occasions fires have been lit by the youngsters standing on the site, the dangers to people living next door are obvious. "My own family look after a blind foster child. He cannot walk past the site, for fear he will be injured such is the extent of the refuse. "These sites are left to become too much of an attraction for young people with consequent vandalism, drinking, solvent and drug abuse. "It is nothing short of a public scandal which we are deter- mined to highlight continuously until something is done."