By Alan Healy
A Derry pensioner has called on the owner of a derelict property next door to her home to come forward and end the ‘nightmare’ she and her disabled daughter are suffering.
Monica Harkin was speaking after the latest spate of anti-social behaviour and vandalism at the property in the Fergleen Park area of Galliagh, which has lain empty for over three years.
Since then, there has been numerous incidents of break-ins, vandalism, illegal dumping and anti-social behaviour at the property.
The most serious incident occurred in February 2016 where Monica, who is 75 and her 46-year-old daughter Joanne, who has special needs, had a lucky escape after a fire broke out when rubbish was deliberately set alight in the backyard of the empty property.
During that incident, Mrs Harkin and her daughter were evacuated from her home while firefighters tackled the blaze.
Following the blaze, the Northern Ireland Housing Executive (NIHE) said that ‘efforts were being made’ to locate the owner of the property.
However now, over two years later, Mrs Harkin told the Derry News that no progress has been made in the situation and she and her daughter are having to deal with a constant stream of anti-social behaviour at the property.
Mrs Harking, who has lived at her home for over 40 years, said it has now reached the point where she is considering moving.
“No one can seem to find this person, and it’s very frustrating for us,” she said.
“We are being forced to live beside a house that’s constantly being wrecked, there’s always bother there with people drinking and doing God knows what.
“I don’t want to move. This is my home, and I shouldn’t have to leave it because someone is refusing to come forward and take responsibility for what they own.
“That house is a magnet for trouble, and I can only seeing it getting worse in the summer.”
Mrs Harkin added: “I have alarms fitted and they’re going off all the time. I would love the owner of that house to come and live here beside it, and see how they would like it if it was their mother and sister having to go through this.”
“No one should have to live like this.”
She added that a property which had lain vacant in a nearby street and was causing similar issues had recently been restored and was now being lived in.
“I don’t see why that can’t happen here,” Mrs Harking continued.
“There’s people in this own crying out for houses yet here we are having to go through a constant nightmare because this house is still lying empty.”
The independent councillor for the area, Warren Robinson, said: “I’ve been contacted by a number of residents of the street, including Mrs Harkin, in relation to the fact that young people gained access to this property again.
“Myself and a number of community activists went down to the property and secured the property as best we could.
“The owner of this property has a responsibility to the people living around it, who are living in misery, its intolerable for Mrs Harkin and her daughter to have to live like this.”
A spokesperson for the Northern Ireland Housing Executive (NIHE) said that the property is ‘privately owned’ and it ‘is not responsible for its condition’.
However, the Housing Executive said it was aware of the problems surrounding the derelict property and its wardens would be liaising with residents of the area.
“We were made aware of anti-social behaviour around a property at 49 Fergleen Park,” a Housing Executive spokesperson said.
“This property is privately owned and we are not responsible for its condition.
“However, we are responsible for the safety of residents who live nearby and we have taken measures to secure the property by boarding up access points and removing rubbish from the garden.
“Our neighbourhood wardens are in the area regularly and liaise with residents – this will continue.
“We also work closely with the Outer North Community Partnership Team (which includes residents, community groups, elected representatives and council representatives), to address issues of anti-social behaviour.”
A spokesperson for Derry City and Strabane District Council said that an officer will be sent to investigate the property.
“Under the Pollution Control and Local Government (Northern Ireland) Order 1978, Council has the authority to serve a notice on the owner of a building(s) or structure(s) that appear by reason of its/their ruinous or dilapidated condition to be seriously detrimental to the amenities of the neighbourhood.
“We would like to take this opportunity to remind parents to be vigilant and to warn their children and young people of the dangers of entering empty or derelict buildings, which can sometimes lead to damage, anti-social behaviour or injury due to dilapidated and dangerous conditions.”
Pictured above: Pensioner, Monica Harkin, 75, and her 46-year-old daughter, Joanne, who has special needs. Mrs Harkin has appealed for the owner of the derelict house to come forward to end her 'nightmare' of living with anti-social behaviour.
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