RESIDENTS of Victoria Place apartments in South Belfast have are living in fear over concerns of unsafe cladding on their building.

The 10-storey Victoria Place block in Wellwood Street will be given the lowest fire safety rating of 'B2’ if the cladding is not replaced, with residents potentially facing a six-figure bill to put it right.

After representation from South Belfast MP Claire Hanna, Finance Minister Conor Murphy has agreed to a meeting with the leaseholders of Victoria Place and has committed to deliver a £1m fund to help leaseholders remedy the aluminium composite material cladding on buildings over 18 metres tall.  

Claire Hanna explained: “It is welcome that the Finance Minister has recognised that leaseholders should not be forced to pay for the mistakes of others. 

"I am conscious, however, that the Department has undertaken a scoping exercise to determine how many buildings are impacted throughout Northern Ireland and therefore it is with caution that I welcome the £1 million figure.

“Residents who have lived in fear for the last year deserve answers to significant concerns that have been unaddressed by the Minister to date. How long is the scoping exercise expected to take? Should leaseholders carry out remedial work prior to any government funding being made available? Will leaseholders be able to apply to the funding retrospectively and will the support package be available for buildings less than 18 metres tall? Without answers to these questions, residents are being left in limbo.

"People should be able to feel safe and secure in their own home. However, as is the case in this apartment block and others, many live everyday with fear and worry both for their own health and safety and the distress of facing a financial penalty for a mistake not of their making.

“The Finance Minister to date has failed to bring forward any legislation to protect leaseholders from the costs of remedial work, this can’t be a piecemeal fix. The Finance Minister must act quickly to deliver long term protections” 

The SDLP, the Victoria Place residents and management company are due to meet the Finance Minister in early August.