Peter in the finals for Housing Hero award

Peter McDonald.
Peter McDonald.

A Derry community worker who has been instrumental in attracting £2m investment to regenerate his area over the last 20 years, has been nominated for a housing award.

Peter McDonald, a co-ordinator at the Leafair Community Association, is a finalist in the ‘Housing Hero’ category of the Chartered Institute of Housing’s Northern Ireland Awards 2014.

He was nominated by Michael Doyle, manager of the Housing Executive office at Collon Terrace.

Peter has an enviable list of achievements.

His work began 20 years ago when Leafair was an unpopular estate with void dwellings and high incidences of anti-social behaviour.

There were no community facilities so Peter’s first task was to lease two garages from the Housing Executive as a base for the group and it was there an action plan for the estate was drawn up.

Today, Leafair has been completely transformed. The estate has a play park, car park, 3G pitch and community allotments. The group has purchased its premises, Skeoge House, extending and refurbishing the building, employing ten people. It is extensively used for educational classes, healthy living events and social events.

Children from both communities have been involved in an allotment and reimaging project.

The community association is also a partner with a Ballymena group in the cross-community scheme known as ‘The Carson Project’ in which over 500 people, including former paramilitaries, ex-security forces and politicians have participated.

But Peter’s most ambitious project, which will be officially launched next month, is the development of a Sports and Recreational and office complex at a cost of £1.1 million. Expected to be finished in 2015, the complex should create 20 jobs.

The Housing Executive’s Michael Doyle said: “All of the projects on the estate have been very much driven by Peter McDonald.

“He came up with most of the ideas, some of which looked like they would not materialise. But he is very driven and did not lose heart.

“Peter has been a key player in attracting £1.166 million to Leafair with a further £1.1 million to be spent next year. This has had significant benefits, both economic and social and ensured the long- term future and sustainability of the association.

“He is well-known within the statutory sector and has an excellent working relationship with the Housing Executive. ”

Peter said: “Leafair is an example of a model of good practice of the work that has been done over the years. It shows what can happen when good working relationships are built. It’s about working together and providing the opportunity for change.

“I am overwhelmed to have been nominated for this award but it’s about belonging to the community. It creates a feel good factor in the community and inspires confidence in the community and in individuals,” he added.

The winner of the awards will be announced at the Chartered Institute of Housing awards ceremony in Belfast City Hall on Friday.