Bosses reply to criticism of Red Road demolition plans

NEWS of the demolition of the Red Road flats has caused a great deal of reaction.

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The iconic flats are to be demolished as part of the 2014 Commonwealth Games opening ceremony
The iconic flats are to be demolished as part of the 2014 Commonwealth Games opening ceremony

Many questions have been asked about making this part of the opening ceremony for the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow. We have put some of those questions to Dr Bridget McConnell, chief executive of Glasgow Life; David Grevemberg, chief executive of Glasgow 2014; and David Fletcher, director of regeneration at Glasgow Housing Association

Isn't the move to blow down the flats as part of an entertainment spectacular insensitive to the memory of the people who lived in them? They will clearly be upset at the demise of the place they once called home …

McConnell: This bold image - for present and future generations - will create an unforgettable moment in time to mark how Glasgow continues to strive for better. For more than five decades the flats have played a role in shaping the lives of thousands of families, for whom these flats have simply been home. The end of Red Road is too important for Glasgow not to share.

Grevemberg: By sharing and commemorating the final moments of the Red Road flats with the world as part of the Opening Ceremony, Glasgow is showing it is a city that is proud of its history but does not stand still. It shows a city constantly regenerating, renewing and re-inventing itself. Our story, Glasgow's story, is always one of its people; their tenacity, their genuine warmth, their ambitions. And along with the story of the Commonwealth, we are reflecting the symbolism of where we have been and where we are going.

How can you guarantee the demolition will go off as planned when you will be dependent on other factors?

Fletcher: As with all of GHA's scheduled demolitions, this programme will be conducted within a full health and safety regime. The priority is, as it is in every case, keeping people safe and ensuring people and communities most directly impacted are involved and informed in the process. This demolition is no different in that regard. We have already demolished two blocks at Red Road and many blocks elsewhere in the city that have all gone to plan.

Grevemberg: Health and safety is paramount in all of this. Planning for the Opening Ceremony will also include a version of the show that does not include the demolition aspect should it not be possible to take place for any reason.

While the demolition will be spectacular, is the destruction of tower block slums really the message Glasgow wants to send out to the world, especially those in the Commonwealth who live in far worse slums than this?

McConnell: This is about more than creating an iconic moment for the Opening Ceremony; it is about the next step in the regeneration of one of Glasgow's most famous communities. It symbolises the changing face of the city over the years and recognises our proud social history. Glasgow's Opening Ceremony is right to celebrate that history, but we will do so in a sensitive manner.

We have worked with former residents for the last six years to get the story of Red Road. This is their story and the voice of real Glaswegians should rightly be heard during the ceremony and the story of Red Road should be shared with the world. Of course, this is one small part of a much larger show that will entertain, inspire and show Glasgow in a spectacular light.

Grevemberg: We want these ceremonies to be authentic and courageous. We could easily just have a celebration that showcases predictable segments, but that would not be genuine, provocative or true to Glasgow.

Isn't the destruction of these tower blocks as part of a global entertainment spectacle depicting Glasgow as a place that celebrates social failure?

McConnell: The demolition of the flats is not about social failure - in fact, the opposite is true. The flats were once the future of social housing in the city and over the years have been home to thousands of families. We are celebrating their role in our history and want to make sure their role is properly marked.

Grevemberg: The regeneration of Glasgow has, so far, seen tens of thousands of former council homes refurbished in a £1.2billion modernisation programme, which is the biggest of its kind in Europe. It has also seen hundreds of new affordable homes built, old and unpopular tower blocks brought down, communities revitalised and thousands of jobs and apprenticeships created for local people. Not to mention projects such as Glasgow 2014's Athletes Village, itself a catalyst for neighbourhood regeneration of the city's East End.

All of this is modern Glasgow's story, a story of looking forward with bold ambition while not forgetting the past.

Why aren't the residents who are being moved out being offered tickets for the Games?

Grevemberg: As is normal during GHA demolition work, facilities will be provided for residents who will be temporarily evacuated during the event. Local venues will be open to them throughout the evacuation period with refreshments and entertainment provided. And, as this will be during the Opening Ceremony for the Games, they are also invited to join in the celebrations by soaking up the atmosphere at the Games Live Event within Glasgow Green.

To ensure a fair approach for everyone, we have made clear since launching our ticketing programme last year that there would be no free tickets. A total of 70% of our tickets for all sports sessions were made available for the public, ensuring events are accessible and tickets affordable.

Will the cash to pay for the demolition now come out of the Games budget or will it remain with Glasgow Housing Association?

Fletcher: The demolition is part of GHA's planned demolition programme that has already been budgeted for. Glasgow 2014 and Glasgow City Council are supporting events for residents affected by the demolition plans.

What safety measures are in place for the demolition?

Fletcher: Safety is our primary focus, as with every demolition we carry out. Our demolition contractor, Safedem, will put in place a wide range of measures on each block to contain the blast and minimise any flying debris. Safedem will also establish a large exclusion zone around the blocks to provide further protection. Again, this is exactly in line with our normal practice.

Our contractor has an extremely experienced and skilled team, who have safely delivered a number of our demolition contracts within the city over the past years. Its track record and safety record are exemplary and GHA is confident of the contractor's ability to deliver this project.

Grevemberg: This project is only possible because so many key people and organisations across the city and Scotland have invested their energies and time to commit to making it happen safely and in a controlled manner. These include our Games partners, the Scottish Government and Glasgow City Council, as well as Police Scotland, British Transport Police, the Health and Safety Executive, Network Rail, First ScotRail, and NG Holmes. Safety will be paramount and the blowdown will only take place during the Opening Ceremony if and when it is safe to do so.

Doesn't the fact the only tower block left standing will be home to asylum seekers send out the message that these unfortunates only merit accommodation Glasgow considers unfit for Glaswegians?

McConnell: Glasgow was the only local authority in Scotland to rehouse asylum seekers as part of the UK Government dispersal programme and the city has shown an unparalleled commitment in this area. The contract for the remaining block in Petershill Court is due to end later this year and work will continue to provide suitable accommodation for asylum seekers after this date.

Fletcher: The remaining block at 33 Petershill Drive will also come down in due course but cannot be part of this operation. The block is leased to Orchard & Shipman and there are still people living in it at present. The whole site, including this block, is due to be demolished and the site cleared by 2017, as was always planned.

Were the residents consulted about the plans for demolition?

Fletcher: Thursday was the start of engaging with local people about this. The council leader wrote to each household affected to explain the plans. That was the first step in a comprehensive process. Now our demolition contractor will begin detailed conversations with every household to understand their exact needs for the day and to help make arrangements for them.

Will the remaining residents face looking out on to a mountain of rubble for yearsto come?

Fletcher: After the blowdown, there will be a large pile of debris that will be processed for recycling. Work on clearing it will start immediately. About 50,000 tonnes of steel and rubble will be crushed, graded and recycled. It is expected 99% of the building rubble and steel can be recycled.

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