Glasgow & West Scotland

Residents displaced by school of art fire stage protest

Protesters gather near the cordon erected around the Glasgow School of Art
Image caption Displaced residents gathered on Sunday to protest at the lack of access to their homes since last month's Glasgow School of Art fire

Business owners and residents have protested at the lack of access to their properties since last month's Glasgow School of Art fire.

About 30 people holding placards stood next to a cordon surrounding the school, which the city council has warned remains in a dangerous state.

The protesters wanted to enter their properties to retrieve belongings.

Earlier they were told that they faced arrest if they attempted to breach the cordon.

There were no reports of arrests during the protest.

The dismantling of unsafe sections of the Mackintosh building is expected to take several more weeks.

During the protest, displaced resident Angela Simpson, who has been unable to return to her house for the past five weeks, said: "We just want in - 10 minutes in the house to get some belongings.

"I have my bags, just want to open the bags and go. We don't want to cause any trouble, we want to be peaceful."

'Shocking situation'

Gill Hutchison, whose business Biggars Music also lies inside the cordon, said: "We've asked Glasgow City Council and it's fallen on deaf ears. It's time they listened.

"It's a shocking situation when they're threatening people who are homeless with arrest, in a situation when absolutely no danger seems to befall the workers who are wandering around having cups of coffee - and they're closer to the dangerous building than our buildings are."

Naya Koulocheri, who has not been allowed back into her rented flat on Sauchiehall Street since the fire, told BBC Scotland: "We don't want to break the law. We need access to our properties and hopefully that can start today.

"We feel drained - that's how 99% of the business owners and residents feel. It's been a long time and we are running out of energy."

The protesters were joined by Glasgow MSP Pauline McNeill, who backed their call for supervised access.

She said: "Surely there could be supervised access with the proper health and safety equipment - for those who say 'I need my electric toothbrush or my car keys or my laptop' or 'I'm running a small business, and my plans and my drawings for my business are inside, can I just get them?'"

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption The Glasgow School of Art, Mackintosh building, is currently being dismantled

Earlier, a "notice of entry" letter was circulated by Garnethill Displaced Residents Group and Sauchiehall Street Inner Cordon Businesses, demanding "full and legal access" to their properties from noon on Sunday.

It read: "This will be accomplished in an orderly and peaceful manner in succession, one at a time, and for a period of 10-20 minutes, having full understanding and recognition of the risks associated therewith..."

But Glasgow City Council chief executive Annemarie O'Donnell said the cordon should not be breached at any time until building control officers declared that the structures hit by the fire were no longer dangerous.

She continued: "The building has suffered significant trauma, as a result the walls have moved in ways which will certainly lead to parts of the building collapsing. That collapse could happen without warning.

"Anyone in any adjacent buildings in the path of falling masonry would be at risk of death.

"I note from your letter that you intend to take this action 'having full understanding and recognition of the risks associated'.

"However the law compels the council to protect life, regardless of whether you wish to accept that risk."

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption The building is being dismantled brick by brick

Ms O'Donnell said legislation also empowered the council to evacuate buildings which were dangerous, or made dangerous by an adjacent building.

She added: "Anyone who has been displaced in this way and reoccupies the building while it is still dangerous is committing a criminal offence."

Police said officers remained at the cordon for public safety purposes.

A police spokesman said: "The building has been deemed dangerous by Glasgow City Council and anyone who enters the cordon is putting themselves at risk.

"If anyone enters the cordon they may find themselves arrested, however, this would be on the grounds of concern for their safety and in order to protect them."

Open letter

Business owners and residents affected by the fire recently wrote an open letter to First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, claiming that the local council was overwhelmed by the recovery task.

In a tweet on Saturday, Ms Sturgeon wrote: "The issues raised in your letter are being properly and thoroughly considered (which does take a bit of time) before a full response is sent, hopefully early next week."

Glasgow City Council has insisted that it has gone beyond statutory requirements in providing assistance.

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