Edinburgh, Fife & East Scotland

'Very little' done since Edinburgh falling masonry death

Row of Red Sandstone Tenement Flats Southside of Glasgow Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption The MSPs want a new framework to ensure standards of maintenance

An MSP has said "very little" was done to improve the maintenance of tenement buildings after falling masonry killed a woman in Edinburgh in 2000.

Graham Simpson cited the death of Christine Foster as he published a "challenging" set of proposals drawn up by a Scottish Parliament committee.

It wants mandatory five-yearly inspection reports on all tenements.

Mr Simpson also revealed that, in Edinburgh alone, there are 20 incidents of falling masonry every month.

The Central Scotland MSP has been the convener of the parliamentary working group, which was set up in March 2018.

Image copyright PA
Image caption Christine Foster was killed by masonry falling from a roof

Ms Foster, a 26-year-old from Kalgoorlie in Western Australia, had been working in Ryan's Bar in Edinburgh's west end.

She was a graduate engineer who had decided to spend time in Edinburgh - where her father was born and lived as a child before his parents emigrated to Australia.

A fatal accident inquiry was told she received serious head injuries when 2ft coping stones fell from a third-storey roof above the bar while she was serving drinks.

The inquiry heard work undertaken on the roof during renovation of the Georgian building in 1989 above the bar was "defective".

Her father Michael, who also attended the inquiry, said: "Personally I think there should be a register of suitably-qualified construction professionals who can only be used in repairs if they are properly accredited.

"Other countries have stringent accreditation programmes and I am appalled that there is not one here. There does not appear to be any record of performance, qualifications or experience."

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Tenements make up 24% of Scotland's housing stock

Mr Simpson said in the foreword to the MSPs' report that housing gets little attention until something goes wrong.

"One time when something went wrong was in June 2000," he said. "Christine Foster, an Australian, was working in an Edinburgh city centre pub when masonry fell from the roof, through an awning, and hit her."

He added: "Very little has happened since to ensure that buildings, such as the one involved in that tragic case, are maintained properly; evidenced by recent figures from the City of Edinburgh Council that indicated over 20 reported incidents of falling masonry every month."

'Private interests'

Tenements account for 584,000 properties in Scotland, 24% of Scotland's total housing stock.

The recommendations from the Working Group on Maintenance of Tenement Scheme Property include:

  • Mandatory regular inspections by a qualified architect or chartered building surveyor
  • Establishing compulsory owners' associations
  • Setting up building reserve funds to pay for necessary repairs

Commenting on the publication of the report, group vice-convener and MSP Andy Wightman said tenements need an improved legal framework to ensure their continued survival.

He said: "They are a fundamental part of our public realm and should be treated as such.

"Yet, this debate has for too long been framed by private interests that have triggered a decline in the upkeep of our shared property and public infrastructure.

"As legislators, we need to review the highly unsatisfactory state of affairs that confronts far too many people on a daily basis."

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