17 June 2005


Belvoir ‘more like Beirut’

Victoria McMahon

Castlereagh Housing Executive, recent winners of an award for ‘Excellence in Customer Service’, has been accused of “doing nothing” by angry Belvoir House residents over living conditions labelled “third world” by a local councillor.

Residents of the high-rise flats say their complaints about the vandalism and squalor of the communal areas of the flats are falling on deaf ears.

Belvoir House resident Gordon Davis told the South Belfast News: “Belvoir has won Best Kept Estate in the past but look at the state of the place now. The windows and lights at the entrance to the flats have been broken for the past six months, the shattered glass is still lying on the ground. The place is just a dumping ground yet we are supposed to live here. It’s disgraceful.”

Colin McClure and partner Zelda McAvoy said they fear for the health of their two small children as the lift in the building stinks of human faeces and urine – and the alternative of the stairs isn’t any better. For four years the young family has been on the Housing Executive list – desperate to get out of the 11th-floor two-bedroom flat that has become their prison.

An angry Colin said, “Let’s not beat about the bush: these flats are slums. To be living in conditions like this in the 21st century is just ridiculous. The Housing Executive has dug their heels in against doing anything for us because we have dared to complain about living in these disgusting conditions. This has been going on for years and yet they continue to do nothing about it.”

He added: “It is more like living in Beirut than Belvoir.”

Expectant mother Zelda said her five-year-old daughter Amy pulls her jumper up over her head because of the overpowering smell in the lift.

“I’m always watching the two of them to make sure they don’t touch the walls or the handrail – it is absolutely disgusting. Dear knows what they could catch. Sometimes people have even spat on the buttons of the lift. We shouldn’t have to live like this. I just pray we get moved,” she said.

A spokesman for Castlereagh Housing Executive said they knew of a window in the communal hallway being broken through an act of vandalism and thaat it would be repaired when the redevelopment scheme, planned for the high rise later this year, starts. But the spokesman denied the Housing Executive had received any recent complaints regarding unhygienic conditions.

“Whilst the District Office has not received any recent complaints from residents about maintenance work being required, we will continue to monitor the situation and carry out any necessary repairs prior to the start of the improvement scheme. The Housing Officer is also in regular contact with the residents in preparation for the improvement work to start, and arranges for repairs and cleaning to take place as required.”

Alliance Castlereagh councillor Sara Duncan said she had recently passed on complaints about the vandalism to District Manager Paul Carland.

“Within the last month I have spoken to Paul Carland and he gave me assurances he would be looking into the vandalism of the windows. People in Belvoir House are living in third world conditions and I will be talking to Paul Carland again over this. Understandably the people in Belvoir feel very ignored and let down.”

She added: “I am extremely disappointed that nothing has been done about this. People can’t be expected to live this way while paying rent, it is hardly value for money. I would ask the Housing Executive not to wait until the refurbishment and put an end to these conditions immediately.”

Cllr Duncan said she was dismayed at hearing about unhygienic conditions. She said she would be alerting the Council’s Environmental Health Department to see if anything can be done.

Journalist:: Victoria McMahon

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