Letter: Tall tales

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The Independent Online
ANDREW O'HAGAN'S description of Rushpark flats, outside Belfast, as 'a thing of beauty, a shimmering might- have-been, a top construct' is something short of the whole truth ('Soaring aspirations', Books, 12 June).

Rushpark is a model public housing estate, with more than 40 per cent of dwellings privately owned under the 'right to buy' scheme. The 15-storey blocks are set in mature woodland protected as open space under the Belfast Urban Area Plan.

The flats, and the estate as a whole, have the advantage of a strong waiting list, affording the Northern Ireland Housing Executive, the landlords, the opportunity to implement an appropriate selection and allocation policy. If tower blocks could not work in Rushpark it is unlikely that they could work anywhere.

Highrise towers tend to work where there is a strong waiting list, selective allocation policies, an on-site concierge, video security, an effective entry system, efficient lifts, chutes and communal facilities, good sound-proofing and proper protective perimeter fencing.

In fact Rushpark flats are not particularly well sound- proofed, have had problems with communal facilities, not least of which is the maintenance cost for private owners, and constantly experience high levels of car vandalism and theft because of a lack of protective perimeter fencing.

As a local councillor I am regularly dealing with such matters at Rushpark flats. While tower block accommodation can be an acceptable form of housing for those who choose it, as in Rushpark, it is clearly not a good means of clearing up the mainstream public housing waiting list.

Cllr Mark Langhammer

Whiteabbey, Northern Ireland