Barracks homes needed repairs

Paul Frew MLA in front of the Fold Houses at the former St. Patrick's Barracks. INBT36-213AC
Paul Frew MLA in front of the Fold Houses at the former St. Patrick's Barracks. INBT36-213AC
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Local MLA Paul Frew says he’s “amazed” at repairs and improvements needed to homes in the St Patrick’s housing development and claims there are major challenges ahead for Fold Housing in bringing the properties at the former Army barracks up to “an appropriate standard”.

Fold Housing Association purchased 47 houses at St Patricks Barracks from the Ministry of Defence in 2012 and invested heavily in modernising the properties and surrounding landscapes, completing the family housing scheme in November of the following year.

The DUP Assemblyman told The Times this week, however, that he has been working on behalf of numerous residents now living in the former Army homes to find answers to their queries and concerns about the current state of their accommodation.

Mr Frew said he had been approached “by many households in this new community” asking for help in resolving minor issues like faulty radiators, electrical trip switches going off and internal doors sticking and that having recently attended meetings with the community and Fold, said he has secured commitments from Fold Housing that minor repairs will be completed.

However, he claimed: “There are major challenges ahead for Fold Housing in bringing these houses up to an appropriate standard.”

The Assemblyman said: “It has become clear that all these houses need windows and external doors fixed.

“When you are invited in to people’s homes you see at first hand the doors and window frames shaking when being used and the cold air coming in through the gaps is terrible.”

He said: “I have been given written assurance by Fold Housing that a windows and external doors scheme will be in place for the 2015/16 financial year. Fold Housing have also agreed to replace the cavity wall insulation to all the housing this financial year.”

Mr Frew continued: “It absolutely amazes me that whilst all that time when these houses lay empty and contracts were signed and the proper procedures were carried out taking many years that they did not see fit to do major works like this before people and families moved in.

“I am glad to report that they (Fold) have commenced the surveys and reports so they can commence works orders to have the defects addressed. This is a most welcome start,” he added.

Responding, a Fold spokesperson said the properties, which date back to the 1960s, had suffered deterioration having been left vacant for a number of years before they were purchased, adding that Fold spent £1.8M on remedial works and improvements before allocating the houses to tenants in November, 2013.

“Fold undertook extensive remedial works including roof works, upgrade of loft insulation, timber treatment where required, remedial works due to flood damage, testing and cleaning of all plumbing, alterations to mains water supplies, repair and replacement of defective sanitary ware, replacement of all electrical installations to flood damaged houses, testing and certifying of all electrical installations and clean/resurface of existing driveways where required,” said the spokesperson, who pointed out that external infrastructure improvements were also carried out.

“It was further recognised that the thermal comfort of these homes is not up to the current standards in terms of heat retention, therefore Fold has set aside a total of £50,000 to install full fill cavity wall insulation to all of our properties. This work is planned to be completed by specialist contractors in the next 2-4 months.

“A further budget of £150,000 has been agreed within our 2015/16 financial year to replace all of the windows and external doors to these homes.

“These works will go out to tender in May 2015 with the works planned to take place during the summer of 2015,” the spokesperson said.