‘Risk to life’ for Edinburgh residents as masonry incidents soar

Masonry and roof incidents have rocketed in recent months.
Masonry and roof incidents have rocketed in recent months.
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A powerful storm hitting the Capital “could put lives at risk” after it was revealed masonry and roof incidents have rocketed by almost 40 per cent  over the last four months.

A new Edinburgh shared repairs service was rolled out in April 2017 after a previous policy was suspended amid bribery claims and the value of statutory notices issued by the council increased from £9.2m in 2005 to more than £30m in 2010.

Under the new scheme, the council only pays for shared repairs work as a last resort and hopes to recoup the money from absent owners – leaving the primary responsibility for maintenance of the property with the owners.

Since the roll-out last year, the scheme has progressed works to the value of £1.7m – with the council committing £56,939 for missing shares.

But a warning over the state of the city’s ageing buildings has been issued after a report to councillors highlighted the number of masonry and roof incidents “have steadily risen over the past four months, representing an increase of 37 per cent from the same period in 2017”.

A council officer responsible for the shared repairs scheme, has put the increase partly down to “poor repairs” carried out historically and also the fact less statutory notices for work are now issued by the authority.

Jackie Timmons,  Edinburgh shared repairs service manager, said: “It’s difficult to pinpoint what the reasons are for the increase in masonry falls.

“It will be the less statutory notices that we issued – the old service was really pro-active in doing that. It had its failures but a lot of people said it was a great service. There’s the age of repairs that was done under the grant system and some of the poor repairs that were done to stone-work that should never have been done – it was the wrong repair. These are coming to the end of their life now, 15 or 20 years on.

“The number of at height masonry falls has significantly increased. This month, there is a 100 percent increase from this time last year.”

The council historically issued 300 statutory repair notices per year using

the old system but just 10 statutory repair notices have been handed out in the last two years to July 2018.

Green Cllr Gavin Corbett said: “The new service is working at a very modest scale, with cases numbering in dozens compared to the tens of thousands of flats which are a hundred years or more old and face repair issues.

“The truth is that Edinburgh is only ever one storm away from a roof or stonework fall which could put lives at risk. In the last four months alone, a rise of almost 40 per cent in masonry or roof incidents should cause every property owner to make sure inspections and repairs are up to date.”

The council is considering the possibility of being able to share absent owners’ contact details to enable repairs to take place.

A council spokeswoman said: “The shared repairs service continues to perform extremely well, providing a highly valued service to homeowners and landlords. But what is also clear is the need for owners to take responsibility for their own property.

“We continue to play an active part in the Scottish Parliamentary working group, which is considering legislative changes, new initiatives, enhanced use of existing rules and any other action that could facilitate improved upkeep of tenements – including the powers to compel owners to maintain their property.”

David Bol , Local Democracy Reporting Service

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