Ballingry flats plagued by 'junkies, paedophiles and thugs' to be demolished

The flats have gained a reputation for antisocial behaviourThe flats have gained a reputation for antisocial behaviour
The flats have gained a reputation for antisocial behaviour
A block of flats in Fife which has been blighted by historical stigma should be demolished, councillors have reluctantly agreed.

Cowdenbeath’s area committee ruled on Wednesday that the properties at 101-147 Martin Crescent in Ballingry should be torn down after years of antisocial behaviour issues made them extremely hard to let.

One man had acid poured over his car, was threatened with a knife and had paint thrown over his kitchen window within just a week of being allocated a flat, while a young family was forced to flee their home after just six weeks because of disorder and disturbances that had made their child afraid to continue living there.

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A regular build-up of rubbish in communal areas is also costing Fife Council thousands of pounds a year to remove, with little or no prospect of the culprits being caught.

The rubbish problem has been well documented.The rubbish problem has been well documented.
The rubbish problem has been well documented.

With all that in mind, councillors agreed to suspend all housing allocations to the block and transfer existing tenants to other accommodation on a priority basis.

However, the decision was taken not without regret.

Councillor Alex Campbell said he was “disappointed” to lose 24 houses and questioned whether enough work had been done to address the problems in the block, while Councillor Lea McLelland described the flats as “iconic” and expressed her hope for new housing to be built on the site.

Councillor Darren Watt similarly described the proposed approach as “drastic”, adding: “If it’s the tenants that are the issue, surely we should be examining that rather than razing the block of flats to the ground?”

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Councillor Mary Lockhart supported the demolition proposal but expressed her reservations – highlighting the experience of one tenant who had found living there “absolutely intolerable”.

“The quality of the housing was not his problem, the problem was the people around about him,” she explained.

“He told me: ‘I’m surrounded by a crowd of junkies, paedophiles and thugs and I’ve got to live in it because the council put me in it’.

“My concerns about this are multiple and it seems we are using housing to solve a problem which is a social problem.

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“The real problem with these flats is the extent of drug use and drug dealing that goes on there.”

However, Councillor Rosemary Liewald said the houses were now no longer fit for modern day living.

“This is an emotive issue but in terms of modern day housing, it’s just not the set up people want to live in or look out on to,” she continued.

Councillor Alistair Bain noted that some people would see the decision as allowing tenants to “jump the queue” in terms of the housing waiting list, but also supported the demolition.

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While Councillor Gary Guichan added: “You do get to a situation with certain blocks and streets where supply and demand does kick in and if there’s no demand for an area, what can you do with it other than get rid of it?”

Committee convener Councillor Linda Erskine said she hoped consultation could start with the community now about what they would like to see in place of the demolished flats, and urged officers to do what they could to support people currently on the waiting list for properties who will inevitably feel “let down” by the council’s decision.

A report by head of housing John Mills confirmed that out of the 24 properties, 22 are in housing management and two are currently used for temporary accommodation allocations managed by Fife Council’s homeless team.

Five of the flats are currently void.

“It is known locally as an undesirable place to live,” he stressed.

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“There is a concern that any significant investment in the block would not be effective as it would be extremely difficult to regenerate due to the stigma and the ongoing issues highlighted in this report.

“The area housing team invest a significant amount of time attempting to respond to complaints from tenants but despite these efforts continuing, the officer time and ongoing costs cannot be sustained indefinitely.

“The constant turnover of properties resulting in failed tenancies indicates that the block is not suitable for tenants looking for settled accommodation and is not financially viable.”

Every tenant being allocated another property will be offered a compensation package consisting of a £1000 disturbance payment and a £1500 home loss payment.

The home loss payment is paid following deductions of outstanding rent and council tax owed to Fife Council.

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