FOI request reveals ‘misleading’ flats demolition report to Dundee City Council

The Blackness Road flats have been approved for demolition. Image credit: Google Street View

A Dundee City Council report recommending the demolition of 26 flats was “seriously misleading” and highlights a lack of consultation among the affected tenants, according to the city’s former housing convener.

The report, submitted to the local authority’s neighbourhood services committee on October 30, claimed that a majority of “residents” favoured demolition of the blocks at 219 -245 Blackness Road. However, it has become clear that six private landlords who do not live there were counted as “residents”. Private tenants’ views were not counted at all, and a majority of council tenants in the blocks opposed demolition.

The information came to light in response to a Freedom of Information (FOI) request by ex councillor Jimmy Black.

He said: “Landlords are not residents. The report was simply wrong and gave the impression that a large majority of the people who live in the blocks were happy to see them destroyed. Eight of the flats are privately rented, and we don’t know what those tenants thought because their views were not considered. They paid rent – I think they were entitled to a say.”

Mr Black has previously stated his belief that the council could save money by repairing the block instead of bringing it down.

He argued that the cost of repairing the stairwells, which has been put at between £880,000 and £1.2 million, is preferable and cheaper than spending £4.5m to demolish the tenements down and rebuild on the site.

The FOI request revealed that seven council tenants wanted the blocks to be renovated, with five going for demolition.

Mr Black said: “I think councillors should have been told that a majority of their own tenants favoured renovation. That’s not in the council report. It’s also clear from tenants’ comments that some were fed up with poor conditions and dampness which had not been dealt with effectively over a period of years. No independent advice was offered to tenants, and I have serious concerns about the consultation process.”

Theresa Derby has lived in the flats for decades and has been highly critical of the consultation.

She said: “Tenants had no idea the council’s preferred option was demolition until June last year. The owners knew two months before we did. I don’t want to leave here – it’s been my home for 28 years. Other tenants feel the same. There’s no good reason to knock down these flats.”

Mr Black added: “The FOI response shows that eight of the flats are privately rented. That means private landlords will walk away from their problems with a total of £640,000 of council tax payers’ money. These are private businesses. It’s hardly surprising that they wanted demolition, because they will take that cash away and invest it profitably. I think that money would be better spent on education, or tackling poverty, or adapting homes for disabled people.

“This decision can only be reviewed if a councillor takes the initiative and brings it back to a Committee. There should be engineers’ reports, proper financial analysis, and a genuine consultation with residents, the West End Community Council and the Local Community Planning Partnership. Let’s do this properly.”

Peter Menzies, chair of the West End Community Council, is also calling for a council rethink on the demolition plan.

He said: “We were not consulted about this decision, and we should have been. These flats are part of the historic landscape of the city. Tenants came to the Community Council to tell us how unsatisfactory the consultation process had been. Demolishing them will cause major disruption to traffic on a busy street, close to a primary school. Time for the city councillors to go back to the drawing board, and think again.”

A Dundee City Council spokesperson said: “The Neighbourhood Services Committee took the decision to demolish the Blackness Road tenements on Monday 30th October 2017.”