Monday, August 15, 2005


Demolition Threat in Glasgow

Glasgow Housing Association seek undemocratic demolition solution for Sighthill housing estate in Glasgow. Tenants continue to fight against housing privatisation agenda, as 1,200 homes come under threat.

Last thursday, 18/08/05,a small group of committed tenants from the 'Sighthill Save Our Homes' campaign group, alongside housing activists from Glasgow, lobbied the local office of GHA,(Glasgow Housing Association), at 30 Castle Street, Royston, to protest against what they perceive as 'harrasment and bullying' by the landlord, GHA. The Association want to eradicate half of the Sighthill area as it presently stands, with the planned demolition of five double blocks in Fountainwell. Tenants at the lobby felt this would result in the 'destruction of Sighthill as a community'.

The tenants wanted to have a meeting with Bob Maguire, the local housing manager, about the planned demolitions. At a previous meeting organised by the Save Our Homes group on july 28th in Sighthill, the group were told by Mr.Maguire that they were welcome to send a deputation to his office anytime. 'Sighthill Save Our Homes' had previously written to the office in early May, and had finally received a reply stating that GHA 'would be in contact' in late June. With the planned demolition of their homes freshly annonunced, the protesters felt it was time to take matters into their own hands. They were refused a meeting.

Graham Campbell, a tenant from the Fountainwell area, said that the Sighthill tenants had only become aware of the demolitions through press reports. No tenant had seen any plans of the area, and no-one in the area had known of the demolitions before reading about it in the newspapers. Mr. Campbell described GHA's attitude as 'incredible', saying that many tenants in the area felt that a decision over the future of their homes had already been taken despite considerable resistance from the local community.

GHA had previously stressed that no decision on the future of the blocks would be taken until the results of a social survey were known. The results are now known.
50% of Fountainwell tenants are 'satisfied with their homes', with 83% of Sighthill's 'other half' in Pinkston satisfied with their homes. Mr. Campbell, noted that the figures reflect the way the Fountainwell blocks have been run down deliberately in order to 'facilitate' demolition. He described the GHA's decision after the release of the results as, "just another example of GHA's contempt for tenants".
Alan Graham, a tenant from the Pinkston blocks, was equally appalled:
"We can't trust the announcements of GHA after the way they've ignored and rode roughshod over our voices. People here fear the Pinkston blocks will also be demolished after Fountainwell".
Despite GHA promising that all tenants who wish to stay will be re-housed in the area once demolition is complete, there are real fears that many will be re-housed elsewhere in less suitable locations. This has been the pattern in other mass demolitions throughout Glasgow's urban history.

The news of the demolition comes on the back of GHA's recently announced intention to cut the 24 hour fixed concierge service, which provides frontline service and maintenance to all Sighthill blocks. This is seen as part of the deliberate run-down of housing stock preceding demolition. Some tenants think this will lead to increased vandalism, a general escalation in crime and, potentially, increased fire risk. The concierge service has generally been deemed one of the few success stories in high-rise management over the last few decades. According to Ian Mcinnes from the Glasgow Save Our Homes campaign, it is widely believed in Sighhill that the downgrading of the service,
"is a deliberate strategy to drive tenants out through fear to facilitate demolitions".
For Macinnes, "this constitutes cruel and inhumane treatment".

The Glasgow Save Our Homes group, and their affiliated group in Sighthill, want the existing high-quality 24 hour fixed concierge service to be maintained, enhanced and promoted as a good example throughout the UK. They urge GHA to abandon its intent to demolish Fountainwell and to initiate another full review with proper tenant consultation, before any further annoncements on Sighthill's future are made. They also say that there should be immediate investment in the housing stock as it stands, citing disinvestment as a clear breach of the Tenant-Landlord agreement, and as a direct contradication in terms of the Housing Scotland Act of 2001.

The concern of the Sighthill tenants is mirrored throughout Glasgow with increasing tenants concern about GHA policy and practice right across Glasgow. There has been a marked increase in evictions since the stock transfer from the City Council to the GHA. Promised refurbishments have yet to materialise, a rent review is under consideration after only three years despite promises that rents would remain unchanged for five years, and the much-vaunted tenant participation has been delayed indefinitely - perhaps until 2033 according to a recent 'Glasgow Herald' report. The predictions of those campaigning aginst the 2002 housing stock transfer in Glasgow have materialised with a vengeance. As the same promises are rolled out in Edinburgh ahead of the imminent stock transfer ballot, the post-transfer situation in Glasgow will be watched with keen interest.

Bill Ramsay, in a recent letter to the Herald, (29/07/05), summarises expertly. "Many of us continue to argue that the funders of the GHA, the banks, are ultimately in control of an organisation that remains the largest social housing organisation in western Europe. Under these circumstances there is a greater chance of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration putting men on Mars over the next couple of decades, than there is of Glasgow Housing Association delivering community ownership for its tenants. Space launches have, for unfortunate reasons, once again become worth watching. So too will be how the proponents of stock transfer fare on Planet Edinburgh".

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