Pastor makes call over bonfire-ravaged homes

Belfast terraced houses gutted in fire, pictured on the Twelfth, 2016.

Belfast terraced houses gutted in fire, pictured on the Twelfth, 2016.

A pastor has challenged the Housing Executive, Belfast City Council and organisers of a bonfire which damaged five homes to consider if they should bear liability.

Two homes adjacent to the huge Hopewell Square bonfire were gutted while three others were damaged on July 11.

Jack McKee from New Life City Church in Belfast

Jack McKee from New Life City Church in Belfast

All but one belonged to the Northern Ireland Housing Executive (NIHE).

Pastor Jack McKee of the New Life Church, off the Shankill Road, yesterday challenged those behind the bonfire to take responsibility.

“I spoke to two of the families the morning after the blaze,” he said.

“One elderly woman has moved in with her daughter and another has moved in with in-laws.”

Terraced houses gutted in fire after the bonfire off the Shankill Road in Belfast

Terraced houses gutted in fire after the bonfire off the Shankill Road in Belfast

He said the green on which the bonfire was built belongs to NIHE.

Asked who should bear liability, he said: “There should be joint responsibility between the Housing Executive, the [bonfire] organisers and possibly Belfast City Council as they may also have been involved in the planning.”

An NIHE spokesman responded that it would repair the houses but that tenants would have to claim on their own insurance - if they have any - for their personal contents and accommodation costs.

NIHE is responsible for repairing the physical structure of the properties and a structural engineer has assessed the damage, he said.

“Our staff are currently assessing the repairs required for each of the properties.

“Offers of temporary accommodation were made to all of those affected but each of the five families have made their own arrangements, choosing to stay with family and friends.”

He added: “Tenants should claim for loss or damage of belongings from their home contents insurance cover.”

Asked if it bears liability for contents, he replied that it works in partnership with other agencies to manage safety at bonfire sites.

He said: “We also take advice on implementing any measures that are deemed necessary.

“A fire safety assessment was carried out at this site.”

The Housing Executive also took action to board up 11 homes in the terrace row on July 11.

He added: “The issue of bonfires is one that cannot be resolved by a single agency and the Housing Executive works closely with local communities and other agencies to try to ensure bonfires are safe and pose no risk to local property.

“The Housing Executive is keen to work corroboratively to find a positive solution.”

Belfast City Council said it would not be appropriate to comment as investigations into the damage are ongoing.

Stephen Paul started an appeal for residents on the Just Giving website with a target of £2,000. It has so far raised £1,124.