Calls for new rules on tenements as masonry falls in Edinburgh quadruple

FALLS of masonry from buildings in Edinburgh have almost quadrupled in the past four years, according to new figures released as MSPs called for radical moves to strengthen rules on the inspection and maintenance of tenements.

Wednesday, 26th June 2019, 5:37 pm
Tenements are in a worse state of repair than any other housing type

Masonry falls in the Capital increased from 53 in 2014 to 179 in 2018, while falls from roofs - slates and chimneys - rose from 25 to 75 in the same period.

Edinburgh Southern Labour MSP Daniel Johnson revealed the statistics, obtained from the city council under freedom of information, as he argued in favour of measures recommended by a cross-party working group to require five-yearly “MoT” inspections of buildings, compulsory owners’ associations and compulsory sinking funds to pay for repairs.

He said it was a matter not just of making it easier for owners to maintain tenements, but also of protecting public safety.

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Mr Johnson said: “Based on these figures, falling masonry is a rising problem in Edinburgh. I think we need a change in the law to prevent buildings falling into a dangerous state of disrepair.

“Falling masonry can have fatal consequences. Regular building checks and sinking funds would halt this dangerous trend caused by poorly maintained buildings.”

In a debate at Holyrood, Mr Johnson said if five-yearly inspections, owners’ associations and sinking funds could be established the culture would change and they would take hold.

Lothian Green MSP Andy Wightman said he had owned a tenement flat until 1996. “The stress of organising repairs, which included threats of violence against me by my neighbours led me and five other residents to selling up.”

He said Scotland had allowed a major part of its infrastructure to fall into disrepair by failing to adopt modern rules which were normal in other European countries.

Lothian Tory MSP Jeremy Balfour said: “We can agree broad principles but when it comes to how we do it and the amount of money that will be involved, I suspect that is when we will have to work very closely together and then how do we sell it to our constituents when they will have to pay extra.”

Housing Minister Kevin Stewart said disrepair was worse in tenements than any other type of housing, with 76 per cent of tenements estimated to need at least some repairs.

He said it may be measures had to be introduced incrementally but he would respond fully to the recommendations in the autumn.

“It may take 10, 15 or 20 years to get all of this right but we cannot ignore this.”