Newspaper for Crossmaglen, South Armagh, Newry and Down.

‘Brook estate residents ‘at breaking point’

Residents of a Bessbrook housing estate are said to be at “breaking point” over ongoing anti-social behaviour and alleged criminal activities in the area.

The latest incident at the Dobson’s Way estate – where a wall was deliberately demolished – has compounded residents’ fears, according to Newry Mourne & Down Councillor Roisin Mulgrew, who has been working closely with the community to address the issues within the housing development. 

The local Sinn Fein Councillor has demanded “ urgent action” from Clanmil Housing Association, who provide the social housing, and has called on them to terminate the tenancies of any tenants found to be involved in the destruction of the wall. 

She said: “The vast majority of residents had moved into these beautiful houses thinking that they would be their forever homes and that they and their families would benefit from the fantastic schools and facilities that the village has to offer. However reality has been much different.” 

The Councillor says she has raised the concerns of residents repeatedly with Clanmil Housing Association and the PSNI and added that she “cannot overstate the amount of stress that many of these residents are enduring”.

“Several families have asked to be rehoused but are in the ridiculous situation that because they have a house they can get no housing points to allow a move to happen,” she claimed.

The Sinn Fein representative said she shared the belief of many tenants in Dobson’s Way that Clanmil Housing Association “are failing in their duty of care” to residents.

“It is essential that all agencies involved  come together and support the families of Dobson’s Way. There now is a growing demand and expectation that any tenants found to be involved in this ongoing anti social behaviour and acts of criminal damage should have their tenancies terminated. People are entitled to live in peace,” she added.

Locals who responded to a police appeal for information on the incident shared on the PSNI Newry and Mourne Facebook page, have claimed that members of the Travelling community were seen knocking down the wall with sledge hammers in an attempt to open up access for caravans.  Further claims were made that fellow residents are reluctant to report any such activity for fear they or their property will be targeted.

Others however say they were told by those who carried out the demolition of the wall that it was done to provide a safe space to turn their vehicles.  They claim to have taken the wall down to “keep their children safe” after repeatedly requesting the wall be demolished since the tragic accident in 2017, which claimed the life of a three year old boy when he was struck by a vehicle in the estate.  

Councillor Mulgrew has refuted those claims as “not accurate on several levels”.  

She insisted that the houses were designed to accommodate the extra vans and vehicles from the Travelling community and that the request to Clanmil to remove the wall was to allow them to be able to drive through the estate –  a request that was refused “because there is no planning or roads service consent”.

Responding to the safety claims on social media the Sinn Fein Councillor said, “No one has the right to either open or close public roads at their own discretion. The death of the child was a tragic accident. What has been left is now dangerous to the public and if anyone is hurt, who is responsible?” 

She added that, having spoken extensively to both settled residents and members of the Travelling community following the destruction of the wall, “the fear which residents feel is genuine and that is an unacceptable way for people to have to live”.

Speaking to The Examiner about the latest incident at the development, a Clanmil Housing Association spokesperson said the act of deliberately demolishing a wall was “particularly shocking, as much positive work has and is being done by Clanmil, tenants and other stakeholders including the Council and PSNI in the area”.

 The Clanmil representative added that as recently as last weekend, the PSNI attended Dobson’s Way with their community engagement bus, “which received support including from local Councillor Roisin Mulgrew”.

“Clanmil appreciates the ongoing support of all these stakeholders” said the spokesperson.  

“In any case, where a Tenancy Agreement has been breached by a Clanmil tenant, or parties connected to a Clanmil tenant, appropriate action will be taken up to and including, repossession proceedings when necessary.”

The Housing Association appealed for anyone with information on the demolition of the wall to contact police on 101 quoting police reference number 879 24/01/19.  The Association is also conducting its own investigation into the matter and is asking anyone with information to contact them on 02890 876000.