The family owners of a 300-year-old thatched cottage are hopeful that a recently announced pot of money can be used to save the listed building.
A storm earlier this year caused severe damage to the centuries old cottage and concerns have been expressed for the welfare of the elderly couple who live in the historic building.
I want to ensure that the Minister holds to his wordsMark Canning
The elderly couple’s family say they have been campaigning for a period of years to try and secure the building’s future but that the dangerous condition of the thatched cottage means the situation has become more pressing.
The Environment Minister, Mark H Durkan, recently paid a visit to the cottage to inspect the damage.
He has since confirmed, in response to lobbying from East Londonderry MLA George Robinson, that the cottage meets all three of the ‘priority categories’ for the department’s listed building grant-aid scheme, and as such I have asked that it be given the highest priority should funding become available.
The nephew of the elderly Quigley couple who live in the thatched cottage, Mark Canning, said that he was hopeful funding would now be made available after a further announcement from Mr Durkan this week.
The Minister said that money raised by the carrier bag levy would be set aside for listed building grants.
Responding to the news, Mark Canning said: “My aunt and uncle are living in a house that is in a very dangerous condition.
Obviously this is a very emotional situation for us. It has been in the family for four generations - it was built in the 1700s - and it is in the most lovely of areas.
“It means the world to us. My aunt and uncle obviously do not want to lose their home but it is in a very dangerous state.
“We have been working with the Northern Ireland Environment Agency’s built heritage unit for some time.
“We feel that they have been painfully slow and that as a result of that slowness, we have missed out on opportunities for funding.
“The house was then badly damaged in a storm. Mark Durkan wrote to George Robinson, who has been working with us, to say that funding was not available but that the cottage met all three ‘priority criteria’.
“I want to ensure that the Minister holds to his words.”
In the Minister’s reply to Mr Robinson, the Mr Durkan said: “This is a very important listed building which should be preserved.
“The situation faced by its elderly owners is also of great concern.”
He recently announced that £500,000 would be made available from the carrier bag levy for listed building grants.