MUCH of old Muirhouse is gone now, blitzed in advance of the ill-fated Waterfront Project in an orgy of city council vandalism remembered as ‘the Muirhoose Clearances.’ The empty acres that once held hundreds of families in social housing were sown with wild flower seed and hilariously re-branded as ‘the Meadows.’ But this fly-tipper’s dream is soon to be developed with new-builds – over half private and for sale, and only 30% genuine social housing for rent.
The rump of the remaining Muirhouse of old is the cluster of high rises, all named after islands in the Forth – Oxcars, Inchmickery, Birnies, Gunnet, Fidra . . . When Holyrood decreed that all kitchens and toilets in Scottish homes must meet a certain criteria the contract for the Muirhouse high rises was handed to the Mitie mega-corp and the result was a mighty shambles of exploding boilers, broken flushes and leaking pipes until a flood of tenant complaints saw Mitie kicked off the job, though years later council plumbers are still repairing the mega-company’s shoddy work. One 14-story block, Birnies Court, which suffered from the Mitie shambles, then had the further indignity of having the lovely shrubbery at its foot, against the protests of its tenants group, bulldozed and replaced with a ‘recycling depot,’ which soon become little more than a communal rubbish dump.
But 150 feet above the dumped mattresses and cookers and burst bin-bags, things are little better. On the block’s top floor council tenant Eddie M, who has lived in Birnies Court for almost 20 years, has spent the last two and a half years fruitlessly trying to get its leaking roof fixed. ‘The leak was first reported on the Easter Weekend of 2014,’ he says. ‘That was the start of a long, frustrating process of complaints that were ignored or met with lies and deceit. Nothing was done.’ Nearly two years after his initial report the sodden ceiling in the small bedroom came down. Subsequent investigations found that the whole roof was rotten and would have to be replaced.
‘If they had fixed the leak when it was first reported,’ he says, ‘the roof wouldn’t have to be replaced. The folk in the block who own their flats will have to pay a fortune. In my own case the council has been in breach of its tenancy agreement for years, but no offer of compensation or rent rebate has been made.’ The Scottish Government has paid ‘spare room subsidy’ for a ‘spare’ room that is unusable.
After the ceiling collapse promises were made of putting out tenders for the roofing work, which would be started in late summer. ‘A letter came,’ says Mr M. ‘This is it, I thought, at last. But no such luck. The letter said that the cooncil was going to replace the lifts in Birnies Court. The roof’s falling apart, but they evidently thought new lifts were more important.’
An enquiry from Mr M brought the ‘promise’ that work on the roof was planned to start in mid-November and finish in February. ‘Replacing a whole high rise roof in the wettest, windiest and coldest months of the year? I’ll believe it when I see it,’ he says. ‘I’ve got to the stage now that if someone from the cooncil told me that New Year’s Day was on the First of January, I’d check a calendar just to make sure.’