THE symbolic beginning of a brighter future for Wester Hailes, the

deprived Edinburgh housing estate, was signalled yesterday as Tommy

Smith, the jazz saxophonist, pressed the plunger of a detonator.

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His action brought the crack of an explosion and a burst of orange

smoke from one of three ten-storey blocks which are to be demolished at

Hailesland Park, the first of several high-rise flats which are to

disappear in a transformation of the area.

The blocks have special significance for Tommy, 23, because he used to

play there with other boys in a game called ''two-man hunt'', a

variation of hide and seek, and lived in Wester Hailes for 11 years.

When the site is redeveloped in a #5m project funded by Scottish

Homes, 98 low-rise homes will be built for families and elderly and

disabled people. The first homes are expected to be ready for occupation

in 1992.

Mr Malcolm Rifkind, Secretary of State for Scotland, called it a

historic day for Wester Hailes. He believed this would be an example of

urban regeneration which would be held up in future years as an example

to the United Kingdom as a whole.

The demolition has come about through an agreement between the Wester

Hailes Community Housing Association, Edinburgh District Council, and

Scottish Homes, and marks the culmination of two years' planning and

preparation. It is part of the urban partnership schemes led by the

Scottish Office.

Ms Barbara Swan, chairwoman of the association, said that the

development would be a radical improvement in an area where hardly

anyone had any private space.

Councillor Mark Lazarowicz, leader of the Labour administration on

Edinburgh District Council, said that there were plans to demolish 10 of

the 27 tower blocks at Wester Hailes and to carry out substantial

renovation in nine.

Mr John Richards, deputy chairman of Scottish Homes, said his

organisation intended to invest #17m in Wester Hailes in the next three

years and #27m over the next five years.

The three blocks, containing 200 flats, were disposed of by Edinburgh

District Council for a nominal price of #1.

Local residents later yesterday held a day of celebrations, with an

Army abseiling display on the blocks, street entertainment, a barbecue,

and a fireworks display.

Wester Hailes was completed in the mid-1970s, and contains 6000

houses.