Why are so many of our buildings left to rot?

GLASGOW'S great architectural heritage is being left to rot, it has been claimed.

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  • Buildings such as Holmlea Primary School, Howden's Engineering Works, Our Lady & St Margaret's Primary School and Nithsdale Hall are all in a poor state of repair
    Buildings such as Holmlea Primary School, Howden's Engineering Works, Our Lady & St Margaret's Primary School and Nithsdale Hall are all in a poor state of repair
  • Buildings such as Holmlea Primary School, Howden's Engineering Works, Our Lady & St Margaret's Primary School and Nithsdale Hall are all in a poor state of repair
  • Buildings such as Holmlea Primary School, Howden's Engineering Works, Our Lady & St Margaret's Primary School and Nithsdale Hall are all in a poor state of repair
  • Buildings such as Holmlea Primary School, Howden's Engineering Works, Our Lady & St Margaret's Primary School and Nithsdale Hall are all in a poor state of repair

Despite work by the Glasgow Architectural Society, there are still dozens of buildings around the city "at risk" or in poor repair.

One local historian claims Glasgow City Council should be doing more to preserve the city's heritage – before it is too late.

Gary Nisbet, who runs the website glasgowsculpture.com, said: "I think Glasgow City Council should be doing more than it is.

"Even if buildings aren't council-owned, there's a point when the council has to compel the owner to make them safe and ensure pieces aren't falling off them.

"Glasgow has so many derelict buildings that it would be impossible to save them all, but we're not really doing anything to save any.

"We have a lot of Edwardian and Victorian school buildings. They are like palaces, big, solid statements of stone.

"Glasgow has never been keen on preserving its heritage. The city flirted with it during the 1990s when we were City Of Architecture And Design. But here we are now, in the 21st century, and that's all gone by the wayside, which just seems to be the Glasgow way of dealing with its heritage."

The Springburn Halls building, which was demolished last month after being found to be unsafe, is the latest victim of neglect.

Old, abandoned and sealed-up schools litter the city: Holmlea Primary and janitor's house in Cathcart, Haghill Primary and janitor's house in the East End and the B-listed Broomloan Road Primary in Govan, once attended by Sir Alex Ferguson.

Mr Nisbet believes some structures would have been protected if they were by internationally regarded Charles Rennie Mackintosh.

But those by lesser architects are neglected, even those by the eminent Scot, Alexander "Greek" Thomson, such as the Caledonia Road Church in the Gorbals. Built in 1857, it was A-listed in 1966 – but was badly damaged by fire the previous year.

The historic building now lies abandoned in the middle of a traffic island.

Lion Chambers in Hope Street was completed in 1907 by Glasgow architect James Salmon, a Mackintosh contemporary.

It was commissioned by WG Black, a lawyer and writer, with lower floors as lawyers' chambers and artists' studios above.

A-listed, it was declared a dangerous structure in 1995 and now stands shrouded in netting to prevent its statues falling on to the street below.

Mr Nisbet said: "Lion Chambers stand on Hope Street like a rotten tooth.

"One of these days we'll read in the papers about it being dangerous, knocked down and a developer moving in.

"You wouldn't see a building of that calibre in that state in any other city. It's very frustrating.

"If you see what we have lost, you would be utterly astonished and disgusted. The days of 18th-century buildings in Glasgow are numbered."

He believes it is already too late for some buildings. Colston Secondary School in Springburn, built in 1907, was boarded up and abandoned in 1989. Then, in 1993, it was destroyed by fire and razed to make way for a new housing estate.

Rockvilla School, on the corner of Dawson Road and Possil Road, was built in 1874 but was sealed up in the 1970s and has since been demolished.

Whitevale Street Public Baths in Dennistoun, which closed in the 1980s, are in a precarious state after part of the B-listed building underwent an emergency demolition last year.

Mr Nisbet added: "Historic Scotland has been very lax in keeping these buildings safe, but at the end of the day there is nothing they can do. The listing system is ineffectual as well.

"The council is just playing the system because if it lets the buildings fall into disrepair they will fall down. There is some legislation but it is difficult to enforce.

"They leave it lying long enough and the city council say it is dangerous and has it demolished. Springburn Halls is the most recent example but will not be the last. If they were Mackintosh buildings, there would be an international outcry."

"We make the most of the city's buildings through maintenance, repairs and insurance, with City Property managing and bringing to market as appropriate around 30 listed buildings classified as surplus."

Dara Parsons, of Historic Scotland, said local authorities are responsible for making sure owners of listed buildings keep them in good repair, even if the council itself owns the building.

Mr Parsons said: "There isn't a set of responsibilities particular to listed buildings. The owners would only have the same responsibility to keep the building in good repair as with any property.

"A council is responsible for overseeing buildings in its area and, if they own the property, they are responsible to themselves and to the people who live in that community.

"We work with Glasgow City Council to encourage it to make an estate strategy and, where old school buildings are concerned, to have a plan for them before the school closes. But you have to recognise the current financial situation and the difficulties there."

catriona.stewart@ eveningtimes.co.uk

Local government

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