Residents of multi-storey flats urged to speak with collective voice

Coolmoyne House in Dunmurry the day after a fire broke out on the ninth floor of the property. Pic by Pacemaker Press
Coolmoyne House in Dunmurry the day after a fire broke out on the ninth floor of the property. Pic by Pacemaker Press

Residents of five Housing Executive tower blocks in Dunmurry - Riverdale House, Parkdale House, Ferndale House, Rathmoyne House and Coolmoyne House - are being encouraged to find a collective voice on major issues, with help from Supporting Communities.

A 12-month pilot project is about to commence to encourage engagement on key issues affecting high rise accommodations, in the hope of facilitating important feedback and meaningful discussion.

Sarah Harkness-Robinson from Supporting Communities with Housing Executive North Belfast Manager Malachy McKinney (left) and Andrew Twigg, Housing Executive Concierge Services Manager, ahead of the commencement of a pilot project to encourage engagement on key issues affecting tenants in high rise accommodations across Northern Ireland.

Sarah Harkness-Robinson from Supporting Communities with Housing Executive North Belfast Manager Malachy McKinney (left) and Andrew Twigg, Housing Executive Concierge Services Manager, ahead of the commencement of a pilot project to encourage engagement on key issues affecting tenants in high rise accommodations across Northern Ireland.

One of the key issues up for discussion will be fire safety.

In November last year residents had to be evacuated from Coolmoyne House after a fire broke out on the ninth floor. The incident led to calls from residents and local politicians for safety improvements at the multi-storey flats.

Commenting on the pilot project, Clark Bailie, Chief Executive of the Housing Executive, said: “At present, there is no collective voice for high rise residents which makes it difficult to facilitate effective engagement on major operational issues, or strategic policy matters.

“The recent Independent Reference Group report into tower block safety recommended that new ways are found to improve communications between the Housing Executive and residents and we are acting on this recommendation.

“This extends much further than the remit of fire safety, uppermost in everyone’s minds in the wake of the Grenfell Tower disaster – it will also look at all relevant issues to those living in towers here.”

Sarah Harkness-Robinson, from Supporting Communities, has been appointed Tower Block Project Co-ordinator.

“I want to support the development of community representation in tower blocks where no representative body currently exists,” she explained.

“We can also provide additional support to existing community groups based in tower blocks themselves or the areas in which tower blocks are located.

“We hope to establish a Tower Block Tenant’s Forum, which will draw representation from across the 33 tower blocks in Northern Ireland and sit as part of the Housing Community Network.

“This can provide residents, both Housing Executive tenants and leaseholders, an opportunity to have their say on issues which are unique to them.

“It also gives the Housing Executive an opportunity to engage directly with residents, who can in turn influence decisions which directly affect them.”

Ms Harkness-Robinson will work alongside Housing Executive staff to roll out the project and will be making contact with existing community groups in the coming weeks.

A flyer will be distributed to all tower block residents in due course, providing more information on the project and how residents can get involved.

A community survey will also follow in each block.

Recruitment is also underway for a Training Officer who will provide free, bespoke, capacity building training to residents who would like to get involved.

For more information, or to get involved, contact Sarah via sarah@supportingcommunities.org or by calling 028 2564 5676.