LARNE Borough Council has issued a call for Environment Minister Alex Attwood to take urgent action to protect and preserve a derelict and dilapidated mansion.
Cairndhu House, a once-grand and regal building located just off the picturesque Coast Road, has lain abandoned for a number of years and has fallen into a state of extreme disrepair.
But the local authority believes it is not too late to save the property and has agreed to ask Mr Attwood to look into the potential of having the building acquired by a trust to allow permanent preservation of the site to be explored.
The move comes after a group of local people set up a Facebook site to highlight the rapidly deteriorating state of the building.
The campaigners, who call themselves ‘Save Cairndhu House’ are on a mission to salvage the decaying building and preserve what is left of its former magnificence.
Cairndhu House was purchased by Sir Thomas and Lady Dixon and was their home for almost 30 years. In 1947 they donated the building and 162 acres of land to the NI Hospitals Authority. It was officially opened as a convalescent hospital in 1950, but in 1986 was closed down by the Department of Health and Social Services.
The historic building was then purchased by Larne Council, but has changed hands a number of times and is now in the ownership of First Trust Bank.
At April’s monthly meeting of Larne Council, Alderman Roy Beggs said there was widespread concern in the borough at the extent of vandalism and deterioration of the listed building.
He told members that there appeared to be “no ongoing care by the NI Environment and Heritage Service to ensure the long-term security of the property”, and felt it would be appropriate to write to the Minister seeking direct action.
Councillor McKinty said it was “lamentable” to see the current state of Cairndhu House, pointing out that lead, copper and wood panels had all been stripped from the building.
However, he still felt it could be saved and backed Ald Beggs’s motion to write to the Minister asking for the property to be secured.
Councillor John Mathews also voiced his support for the motion, but despaired at the condition of the property.
He welcomed the call to save the building, but asked what the site could be used for, as the restoration costs would be “significant”.
However, while Councillor Brian Dunn backed the motion, he also blamed the council for starting the decay of Cairndhu House by keeping the building vacant for years when it was in council’s ownership.
According to minutes of the meeting, Cllr Dunn said: “When the Northern Health Board decided to close the facility, following a failed campaign of opposition to its closure, council bought the property. A property for which it had no use.
“It was then maintained at great expense to the ratepayers before eventually being sold.”
He added that the council must accept “some responsibility” for the condition the property is currently in.