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Final chapter as city blackspot is given new life

The old Unity Flats before the redevelopment programme got under way

The old Unity Flats before the redevelopment programme got under wayA ONE-TIME housing blackspot is set for the final chapter in its transformation to award-winning city centre address.

The sixth and last phase of Belfast's Carrick Hill redevelopment will start early next year, according to the Housing Executive.

The remaining flats in the estate will be demolished to make way for 43 units to be built by the Oaklee Housing Association.

"Since 1987 when the demolition of Unity Flats was approved, the Housing Executive has been committed to the phased replacement of the old system-built blocks with quality housing," said Stewart Cuddy of the Housing Executive.

Oaklee will undertake this final phase because the Executive is no longer responsible for new-build.

However, the public body will work closely with the housing association and the local residents' group, whose role has been pivotal to the re-emergence of the Carrick Hill community.

"When the old Carrick Hill houses were demolished in the late 1950s the then housing association had two options - to build high rise flats like those at the New Lodge or the four- storey maisonettes," said a spokesman for the Carrick Hill Residents' Group.

"The committee went for what it hoped would be the lesser of two evils."

However, the concrete streets which resulted became one of the lowest demand estates in Belfast.

"There was no heart left in the community. But there was a core of people who never identified themselves as Unity Flats residents, but as Carrick Hill people," said the residents' spokesman.

When the redevelopment of the area got the go-ahead, their input was central and one of the most obvious signs of the turnaround was the change in name - back to Carrick Hill.

The residents' input was also recognised in 1995 when the design for phase two won a Royal Institute of British Architects award.