Bank responds to pensioner’s plea for clean-up at eyesore property

Rita Stringer (right) and her niece Margaret Laird survey the mess at the vacant house on Glenvarna Drive. Ulster Bank later appointed contractors to clean up the site. INNT 32-072-FP
Rita Stringer (right) and her niece Margaret Laird survey the mess at the vacant house on Glenvarna Drive. Ulster Bank later appointed contractors to clean up the site. INNT 32-072-FP
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A Glengormley pensioner has told how she’s “living in fear” due to ongoing problems at a vacant property which adjoins her home.

Rita Stringer has been living in her terraced house at Glenvarna Drive for 40 years. But for most of the past decade her life has been made a misery by the eyesore property next door.

The adjoining house, owned by the Ulster Bank, has been lying empty for several years, and fly-tippers have been using the wildly overgrown garden at the rear of the property to dump their trash.

Bags of household rubbish, including food waste and soiled nappies, have been dumped at the property, and Mrs Stringer’s home is regularly plagued with mice.

“It’s been bad from the word go. I’ve been getting mice for years. Coming into winter it’s particularly bad. I’m tortured with them,” she said.

In May last year, as local residents complained about young people using the property as a drinking den, a fire was started inside the building, causing serious damage.

“I nearly burnt to death. I can’t hear, I’m deaf and everyone was banging the door trying to get me up. One of the neighbours finally managed to get me out. I could’ve been killed,” Mrs Stringer said.

After safety concerns were raised by residents and local councillors, the property was secured with metal grilles over the doors and windows. However, the illegal dumping at the site continues.

The 74-year-old widow, who is on anti-depressants, described living next door to the vacant property as “nerve wracking”, saying she’s “terrified” and “living in fear”. Over the past couple of years she’s moved out on numerous occasions, having to go and stay with her son or a friend, because she’s afraid to be in the house due to the mice and the worry that someone will break in and start another fire.

Mrs Stringer said that she had decided to go public with her story as “a last resort”.

“This is my last hope. I’ve tried everything but to no avail. If this doesn’t work I don’t know what I’ll do. I might as well just throw the towel in.

“I just want them (the bank) to come out and sort the place out and put it up for sale and get someone living in it,” she added.

Mrs Stringer’s daughter and other relatives had been in contact with Ulster Bank and Newtownabbey Borough Council on a number of occasions in a bid to get the problems at the property resolved, but without success.

However, after the Newtownabbey Times contacted both organisations earlier this week, and local DUP councillor Robert Hill raised the issue on Mrs Stringer’s behalf, the bank responded by appointing contractors to clean up the site on Thursday, August 8.

It’s understood that Ulster Bank is seeking a resolution for the property, but a spokesperson for the bank said that they “can’t comment on any individual cases”.

But a spokesperson for Newtownabbey Borough Council commented: “The council has been responding promptly to a series of complaints relating to this vacant property for several years. Environmental Health staff have been working to ensure the owner secures the property and removes any waste.

“The site has now been cleared of rubbish and the council have asked Ulster Bank to continue to monitor the situation to prevent a recurrence of the problem.”

Mrs Stringer’s niece, Margaret Laird, said her aunt was “thrilled” that the garden of the property had finally been cleaned up, but added that she still wants to see the house “fixed up and sold on” so that it’s no longer lying empty.