Month-long project aims to clean up notorious estate

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A CAMPAIGN to clean up a city housing estate which has been beset by violence, drug abuse and antisocial behaviour was set to be launched today.

The month-long project is aimed at improving the lives of residents of the Calders area of Wester Hailes and gathering their opinions on how to further help the local community.

The work is centred around the high rise blocks of Medwin House, Dunsyre House and Cobinshaw House which have been the scenes of murders, a string of fires and suicides over recent years.

NHS staff were set to visit the flats today to provide advice, including giving free health checks and drug and alcohol counselling services.

Meanwhile, firefighters will be on hand to carry out home safety checks in a bid to curb the problem of potentially deadly blazes breaking out in the tower blocks.

In an effort to reduce antisocial behaviour in the area, sporting activities will be offered during the campaign, with residents able to take part in canoeing, kayaking, mountain biking and climbing, as well as playing football on a visiting mobile pitch.

The scheme, being run by the city council along with the police and fire services, NHS Lothian and other agencies, is being supported by Wester Hailes community council.

John Aitchison, from the area’s community council, said: “What is happening during this month is really positive and I hope that the residents in all the Calders take part.

“I’s a great opportunity to address some of the issues in the area. I’m sure all the residents are very grateful for all the support of the agencies involved.”

The Get on Bus was expected to attend today’s event to provide unemployed residents with advice on finding work.

Police officers were also set to attend at the high rise blocks to give residents advice on dealing with antisocial behaviour and other crimes.

Officers said they wanted feedback from the community to help identify policing priorities to be tackled.

Chief Inspector Richard Thomas, who is in charge of policing in the area, said: “As well as being fully involved in the scheme, we will be providing a highly visible presence in the area over the next few weeks to find out what local communities want from their police service and to establish the issues that matter most to them.

“I’d encourage anyone who lives in or around the Calders to get involved.”

In December 2007, 33-year-old Michael Gardner was stabbed to death on the 11th floor of Medwin House. Bodybuiler Craig Bathgate was jailed for life and ordered to serve at least 15 years in jail.

Robert Turner was ordered to serve at least 13 years in prison for the murder of Marc Lancashire, 22, in Dunsyre House in May 2006.

A 23-year-old woman fell 150 feet to her death from the window of her ninth floor flat in Medwin House in May 2009.

Several further “days of action” have been arranged when different agencies will visit to provide advice to residents on August 31, September 5 and September 11.

Lesley Johnston, public health practitioner with NHS Lothian, said: “By taking part in this initiative we hope to reach those people who may find it difficult to visit their GP or speak with a healthcare worker.”

Councillor Cammy Day, the city’s community safety leader, said: “By encouraging the residents to tell us how they feel they can help shape the services that are provided for the better.

“If there are issues like anti-social behaviour, graffiti, dog fouling or someone just needing some health or housing advice then experts will be on hand to help.”