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Minister will meet with St Joe’s group

By Kieran Hughes

The Environment Minister says he will meet with a local community group after they hit out at being overlooked for funding to refurbish a listed building in their area. Alex Attwood says he is will meet with Sailortown Regeneration Group (SRG) to discuss their concerns about the disused St Joseph’s Church.

As reported in last week’s North Belfast News, the group were angered that Mr Attwood’s department had pledged £400,000 for the conservation and regeneration of Carlisle Memorial Methodist Church at Carlisle Circus.

SRG have been campaigning for the refurbishment of St Joseph’s, which has been closed since 2001, to be used as a community hub for the expanding population of young families in the area.

Sean Baker, SRG secretary, said the funding announcement for Carlisle Methodist felt like “a kick in the teeth” and their area was in great need of a community hub.

“I fully agree that St Joseph’s Church is an important listed building which has been at risk for many years,” said Alex Attwood.

He said that an offer of a grant from the NI Environment Agency in 2009 was lower than expected and not accepted by the SRG, the current owners.

He said the offer of assistance, which remains open, predates his time as Minister. “Consequently I have instructed officials to quickly provide me with further information so that I can decide how best to proceed. I will, of course, meet the regeneration group and look forward to doing so. My department is also revisiting its policy on ‘holding’ repairs for buildings at risk which may create some further funding opportunities.

“I am sorry that anyone thinks funding for another heritage project is a ‘kick in the teeth’.  Saving important buildings should be welcomed. I will not be able to help in every case – buy where I do so it should be welcomed not otherwise.”


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