Maryhill Leaders Demand Improvements To Scheme

The Burgh Angel, along with leaders in community based institutions in Maryhill have been concerned about the way that Maryhill Locks developments are to deliver just 17% social homes. As a result a campaign has been launched to bring together different institutions and concerned citizens in the local area. The campaign is meeting with Stephen Curran, the Labour councillor in charge of the scheme, to demand improvements. The group is due to meet with Councillor Curran and officials later in the month. The next Angel will report on any progress from that meeting and reveal details of how
local leaders intend to take forward the campaign.

Maryhill Locks Boss Linked To Scandal Hit Edinburgh Firm

In the last edition of the Angel, we covered the scandal that just 17% of housing to be built in the Maryhill Locks development will be for social housing. An investigation by the Burgh Angel can now reveal that a key member of the Board of the city council body leading the Locks development stepped down from the leadership of scandal hit Edinburgh development body EDI Group, just months before the firm went bankrupt.

Ian Wall, who was CEO of the part council owned firm for twenty years is on the Board of the GHA, and a number of other prominent Boards besides. The connection to EDI Group however is significant, as concerns grow about the management of the Maryhill Locks development, given that so few of the homes will be for social rent. Ian Wall also sits on the Board of the Scottish Regeneration Forum, the Scottish Council for Industry and Development, and he is a trustee of Shelter, however he is described by the GHA as “the former Chief Executive of the EDI Group and of PARK [sic], the Urban Regeneration Company for Craigmillar in Edinburgh.” This is clearly seen by the GHA as his most important former role.

Stepping down in April 2008, Mr Wall said: “I am very proud of the track record of EDI over the last two decades and the contribution we have been able to make to the changing face of the city through our developments.” The firm made a pre-tax loss in 2008 of £5.8million. This was followed by a loss of £7.8million in 2009.

EDI Group, and it’s subsidiaries had to approach Edinburgh City Council for a £62 million bailout in 2009. What is even more significant and calls into question the leadership of the Locks project is that Ian Wall’s troubled firm actually had to sell off 90% of its assets to Edinburgh City Council and sack more than half of its staff to become solvent. Mr Wall’s ‘retirement’ may have allowed him to avoid being blamed for the crisis in the firm, but the fact that 90% of the firm’s investments had to be sold off, at a huge loss, just to pay off debts, and the fact that he led the firm for the previous 20 years when those debts were racked up prompts serious questions.

Then there is the question of what EDI Group is doing in Craigmillar itself. Much social housing in the area has been demolished, even though Edinburgh is the grip of a huge social housing crisis, which is even worse than that seen in Glasgow. Homeless people with every right to social housing are routinely turned away because so little social housing remains. Nowhere is that process more stark than in Craigmillar, where the process has been called “gentrification” and “degeneration”, and where council funded community bodies have been the subject of court action over mismanagement, and bitter disputes have emerged over local “cabals” controlling key community assets.

Elsewhere in the city these processes spearheaded by EDI Group have become so entrenched that local residents in the “Davidsons Mains Silverknows Association” who live in new build private homes in Muirhouse have begun campaigning to see a fence built across a public footpath, because people who live in neighbouring council houses use the footpath, and the owners see the tenants as a threat and source of crime. This is a shocking attitude to take, but it is one that has been fostered by the drive to make social housing ever more stigmatised in the drive to demolish it.

Back in Maryhill, questions first emerged about the leadership of the Maryhill Locks project after censored documents passed to the Angel made clear that the land for the development had been given away, for free, to private developers. This land is believed to be worth around £100million – that is some gift. Hundreds of social homes were demolished to make way for the development. The Scottish Government confirmed to the Angel that of the 800 or so homes to be built, just 141 would be for social rent.

After another fire residents call for new veranda doors

IN THE SAME week that the Wyndford housing scheme saw another fire in one of its 25 storey blocks, local residents started voicing concerns over the safety of the veranda doors which are currently installed. The residents of Wyndford, many of whom have disabilities and mental health issues and with a large number of elderly residents in sheltered housing, have asked Cube Housing if the current doors could be replaced with sliding doors as part of
its current planned £10 million investment. The sliding veranda
doors the residents are asking for are already installed in the Cadder estate which is also run by Cube Housing.

While  Cube may argue that the money has already been allocated and it is too late to look into other options, Cube should investigate viable solutions in the interest of its residents who have voiced their concerns over the safety of the doors.

The scheme has seen two major fires in two years in both maisonette and tower block flats and Cube have been very vocal in encouraging the residents to practice fire safety in their homes through a leaflet campaign, posters and on their website. However, Cube should also be active in its fire safety drive and
should at least make sure the doors are of a suitable type which would allow the residents the best possible chance of surviving a fire.

A resident in one of the 25 storey tower blocks said, ‘It’s worrying that the block I stay in has seen two fires in the two years that I’ve lived here. Especially as I know there are lots of families and elderly in the building. The veranda doors that are there just now aren’t very good when I think about it. My one sticks and I have to push really hard on it to get it open. But then when I do get it open, sometimes I’ve had to push so hard I’ve hurt myself by falling through. So my choices are to get someone else to open and close it for me or not go out onto the veranda. I’d like Cube to look into it because even though I don’t live at the very top, it’s still a big drop down to the ground if there was a fire on one of the floors near me. Easier access onto the veranda would mean I might have a bit more time for the fire brigade to help me before I’d have to think aboutanything drastic like jumping.’

Any concerned residents of the Wyndford could also write to Cube and ask them to look into installing sliding doors. Below is a suggestion which could be used as a template based on one written to Cube. The Burgh Angel would also
encourage the residents of Wyndford to look into the fire safety policies and procedures for their own homes as well as write into Cube if they would like to voice any concerns. However, please send photocopies and keep the original for future reference.

 

Dear Cube,

I have concerns over the ease of access to my veranda in the event of a fire and
would like Cube Housing to investigate into upgrading the current doors with
sliding doors such as the ones they have installed at Cadder estate.

While I understand there are financial restrictions, I would ask Cube to consider the importance of the safety of it’s residents and look into viable alternatives to the PVC doors which are currently installed. These doors which can be heavy and stiff are a safety hazard for many of the residents who are elderly or physically disabled should they need to escape onto their veranda should a fire occur in or near their home.

Please could you tell me what Cube housing could do to rectify this situation.
Thank you.

Yours sincerely,

 

Letters can be sent to:

Willie Croft

Head of
Regeneration
Cube Housing
McCafferty House
71 Firhill Road
Glasgow
G20 7BE

Leaked document exposes Labour’s sleazy plan to take away homeless rights

A leaked document stamped with the letterhead of the GHA and the Labour run City Council discussing a “Housing Options” pilot project in the North West of Glasgow has scary consequences for the rights of citizens to housing.

Housing Options is the name given to the practice of “gatekeeping” – where citizens who are homeless or facing homelessness are prevented from being able to make a homeless persons application, and so are prevented from being able to readily access social housing.  It is a practice which has brought misery to the poorest families in places like inner London, where pressure on dwindling social housing stocks and the abundance of unscrupulous slum landlords in the private rented sector has seen average rents for bedsit flats rise above £750.00 a month.

We spoke to a specialist debt advisor and welfare rights worker who is an expert on dodgy gatekeeping practices in London, who works in Glasgow and is worried that the sleaziest elements of the cocaine capitalism that led to the banking collapse are being imported and forced onto the Burgh’s residents, and Glasgow’s poorest.

Adrienne told us, “I’ve seen some really terrible stories as a result of gatekeeping.  Families who really need social housing are being forced into crazy debts to keep up payments to ruthless landlords because councils will do anything to prevent them making a homeless application.  There have been cases where poor people have been driven to the edge as a result of these cruel policies.  These policies are an attack on those who need support.”

Private landlords and homeless pressures on families have a long and ugly association.

According to the document the council means to roll this project out from April of this year.  Phase 1 will begin in April and end in September.  Phase 2 will start in October 2012 before ending in April next year to foisted onto the whole city.

The council document is explicit about the goal of preventing people accessing their right to social housing, despite the very high demand for this type of housing.

“The Housing Options pilot has grown out of a recognition that service delivery for homeless and potentially homeless people needed to change, if we were to balance the growing demands for housing (social housing in particular) against the slow down in supply as a result of the economic situation.  Pressure on social housing continues to increase and access to other tenures is contracting, the number of homelessness cases shows no sign of slowing and tailored advice for people who need it is fragmented and difficult to access.”

Pressure on social housing has increased because tens of thousands of social homes have been demolished across the city, which have not been replaced.  Despite spiralling poverty in Maryhill we have the slimy spectacle of the social home swick at Maryhill Locks.  Hundreds and hundreds of almost 100% social homes have been demolished.  The land (worth £100 million) has been given away for free by the council to private developers.  Worst of all the plan to replace the hundreds of homes razed to the ground now insists that just 17% of the new houses are to be built for social rent.

Sports cars in the new Maryhill Locks: who the council imagines will live there when they have finished building.

A number of different groups are to be involved in rolling out the project, but it is explicit about “joining the dots” between different services (ie that all housing associations and “other key stakeholders” will be forced to comply) and its being “focussed on the North West area.”  We are to be the guinea pig for a plan that has a track record elsewhere of making poorer people’s lives increasingly more stressful and difficult.

“This is about removing the safety net,” Says Adrienne.

As the document states euphemistically, “Housing Options recognises that the availability of social housing is limited and cannot be the answer to everyone’s housing needs.  It avoids any initial assumption that a social rented tenancy or homeless application is necessarily the most appropriate solution for a household.”

There is however no mealy-mouthed euphemism about the council’s main goal, from the very first days of the trial of this new treatment.  “The expected benefits of the Phase 1 pilot are:  … Reduction in number of section 5 referrals.” This is technical speak, but there is no doubting what it means: preventing people from making homelessness applications which result in the right to a socially rented house.  Section 5 referrals are the right to a house from homelessness applications – it is a hard won statutory right.  The process emerged in response to overwhelming pressure from the tenants movement, who pushed for decades for these rights for citizens.

Shelter, the Homelessness charity, makes clear that the Section 5 homelessness application process is about rights for the individual and their family:-

“Section 5 referrals are the formal means by which local authorities (LAs) can ensure that homeless people are housed by registered social landlords (RSLs).  [...] Scottish Executive guidance makes clear that, when a section 5 referral is made, the only reason a RSL can reject the referral is if appropriate accommodation will not be available within a reasonable period, usually six weeks.  Where LAs and RSLs cannot agree a referral then the decision can go to an arbiter. “

The Burgh Angel is deeply concerned about the attacks on citizens rights, and the stress this is putting on families.  We know that the social home swick in Maryhill has helped to put immense strain on the supply of social housing.  This needs to be addressed urgently, and new social homes need to be built to replace the tens of thousands we have lost across Glasgow.  However there is not need to take this situation lying down.  If you work in housing or homelessness, have been homeless yourself, or just want to discuss this situation, the Burgh Angel would like to hear from you.  The attacks on housing are now threatening hard won rights, and this risks placing our families in crisis.

Scottish Housing Minister Denies Malpractice Claims

(by getting a civil servant working on planning for the Commonwealth Games to answer for him!)

“Dear Sir or Madam

Thank you for your e-mail of 9 December 2011 to Keith Brown MSP, Minister for Housing and Transport, asking about clawback arrangements at the housing developments at Maryhill Locks, which falls within the Maryhill Transformational Regeneration Area (TRA).

Mr Brown has asked me to reply on his behalf. While contractual legal agreements govern any disposal of land in these circumstances, clawback is waived in Activated Transformational Regeneration Areas (TRAs) – currently Maryhill, Lauriestonand Gallowgate – to help facilitate the regeneration of these areas, making sites more affordable to develop. This policy for all Activated TRAs, has been agreed between Glasgow City Council, Glasgow Housing Association and Scottish Government and is fairly common in many regeneration projects throughout the United Kingdom. All developments within the TRAs are progressed within the context of a wider framework of agreed planned development.

For clarity, I should confirm the current position at Maryhill Locks. Phase 1 was the Botany development of 35 social rented properties, completed in October 2010 and in the ownership of Maryhill Housing Association. A significant number of these tenancies were taken up by former Botany residents who were keen to return to the area. Phase 2 commenced in June 2011 and an advanced works programme is underway.

Maryhill Housing Association will provide 106 homes for social rent and 19 units for New Supply Shared Equity. The remainder of the site will, in time, be developed for affordable private housing.

I hope my .Ietter clarifies the position.
Yours sincerely,
Alex Robertson
Head of Planning, Finance and Glasgow
Victoria Quay.”

Waterlogged in new home

Reproduced from:
LOCAL NEWS GLASGOW
http://www.localnewsglasgow.co.uk

New flats built for Maryhill Housing Association in the past two years, are leaking badly, according to residents.

The houses in Ruchill Street, G20 have had ceilings collapse and one resident is sleeping in her living room because of the water in her bedroom. Said Debbie McKenna: ‘My bed was drenched. I was glad I was not in it at the time. I’d noticed water dripping off the light bulb. I’ve had to throw out some of the bedclothes and the mattress.’

Debbie, who stayed with neighbours for a while says that the problem has still not been resolved though her deluge happened on Sunday 4 December. ‘It means my grandson can’t come to me at weekends as he usually does in case my ceiling falls in or the water starts coming through again.’

Another neighbour, who wishes to remain nameless, claims to have fallen because of the water cascading down the close stairs.

Said Iain MacInnes, Secretary of the Scottish Tenants’ Organisation: ‘This shouldn’t be happening in such a new property. But it seems to be taking an inordinately long time to find why and where the water is coming in and to fix it. Landlords have a legal responsibility to keep a place windproof and watertight.’

A spokesman for Maryhill Housing Association said that Chief Executive Willy Briody had visited the homes, personally, to check out the situation with senior staff. ‘We agree it is totally unacceptable to have water coming in, especially at this time of year. We are doing everything possible with Bellway, the building contractor to fix this.’

We reproduce this story in the Burgh Angel, not just because it is scandalous that tenants must live in these conditions, but also because Maryhill Housing Association was the very body which is to own and manage the pitiful number of new social homes in the Maryhill Locks.

Can they be trusted?

Tell us your story.

“Investing” (This is not satire)

http://www.glasgowcanal.co.uk/investing

“Glasgow’s Canal is a place full of opportunities for investors, as this area of the city is transformed.

A wide range of investment opportunities are currently available along the canal. Land is for sale. Old buildings are available to be redeveloped. Feasibility studies have been carried out as the first step for some exciting new projects, where funding is now required to move forward. The Glasgow Paddlesports Centre and Urban Etive are both exciting examples of opportunities to invest in watersports. Put these new opportunities in the context of projects in progress to appreciate the scale and rate of change that’s afoot.

Visit our Completed Projects page to learn how Glasgow’s Canal – and the area around it – is gradually changing. Milestones are celebrated; new projects are completed; people move into the area; old preconceptions are overturned.

If you would like to contribute to the transformation of this part of Glasgow through investment, redevelopment or relocation, please contact us.”