The campaign for the demolition of Divis, Belfast: community-led planning amidst conflict

Geraint Ellis*, Glynn Robbins, Sue Brownill, Andy Inch, Lorraine Leeson, Glenn O’Hara, Francesca Sartorio, Debbie Humphry, Michael Howcroft, Jason Slade

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to conferenceOther contribution to conferencepeer-review

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This paper recounts the little-known activities, consequences and lessons of the community campaign to demolish the Divis flats complex in Belfast, once described as ‘the largest slum in Europe’. The Divis Flats were constructed as part of a comprehensive area improvement scheme in the late 1960s, and in some ways typical of large-scale public housing built at that time. Despite the promises of improved living conditions within a decade of their completion they had deteriorated to the point that tenants of the 850 homes had launched a vociferous campaign for the estate’s demolition, and adopted a range of different tactics as the campaign progressed through several phases. While the call for demolition arose from deep dissatisfaction with the design and maintenance of Divis Flats, the wider political context of ‘The Troubles’, of which Divis was a deeply significant site, provided an intensity to the community campaign. Into this volatile mix, came the Town and Country Planning Association (TCPA), with a bold attempt to support tenants in their campaign for a safer, healthier, more humane environment. Through the efforts of the community, and external support, it was announced that most of the Divis complex would be demolished in 1986.

The largely hidden history of the Divis demolition campaign provides important insights for understanding the way in which progressive change in the built environment is resisted and can be sustained in the face of political adversity. Divis is one of the detailed case studies of the AHRC funded HOPE project.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages26
Publication statusUnpublished - 23 Jun 2023
EventUK-Ireland Planning Research Conference 2023 : Planning on a crisis footing - University of Glasgow, Glasgow, United Kingdom
Duration: 04 Sept 202306 Sept 2023


ConferenceUK-Ireland Planning Research Conference 2023
Country/TerritoryUnited Kingdom
Internet address


  • planning
  • community

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geography, Planning and Development


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