Legal threat

Empty building owners told to invest or sell up

Bhs Glasgow
A number of buildings in Glasgow city centre are vacant (pic: Terry Murden)

Owners of vacant properties in Glasgow may be forced to repair or sell them under new council plans to clean up what has been dubbed ‘the filthy city’.

Scottish ministers are willing to consider compulsory sales orders which would allow the council to take action against absent owners, says SNP leader Susan Aitken.

The city centre has become a focus of concern and criticism because of the number of empty buildings, broken pavements and general neglect.

Gary Smith, the general secretary of the GMB trade union, described Glasgow as a “filthy” city that was unfit to host Cop26 in 2021.

With the city hosting the UCI World Cycling Championships this week there has been renewed attention on the dilapidated buildings.

Paul Sweeney, a Labour MSP for the Glasgow region, told the Daily Record: “There are a myriad of problems that need addressing and a last-minute slapdash effort to fill in the potholes and cut the grass on main cycling routes is nothing more than papering over the cracks.”

Glasgow has been one of the worst victims of the post-Covid fall in footfall. A plan to cut city night buses because of low usage has highlighted its continuing struggle to recover.

empty shops in Glasgow
Empty shops in Sauchiehall Street (pic: Terry Murden)

A city council report last year found that the pandemic had led to an estimated loss of about £2 billion to the city’s economy, with its hospitality and retail sectors severely affected.

The introduction of a low emission zone (LEZ) to clean up the air quality has also prompted concern that those on lower incomes are now being excluded, while the council has also allowed an abundance of offices to be built that close at night and are often on the sites of pubs and shops.

Pauline McNeill, also a Labour MSP for the Glasgow region, has announced plans for a recovery commission to revitalise the city.

It will work with the private sector and examine some of the key issues which have blighted the city in recent years which includes the closure of venues such as Rogano and Brian Maule’s Le Chardon d’Or, as well as the destruction of the famous Mackintosh art school. The former Iron Horse pub, once popular with the Tartan Army, is destined to be a site for more offices.

In a statement on social media, Ms McNeill said: “Glasgow is a wonderful city with vast potential. More needs to be done to make sure that potential is realised. It’s important that we bring together experts from across the city to create a plan for Glasgow’s future.”

Former Iron Horse pub, a popular venue for the Tartan Army, now earmarked for offices

Michael Bergson, who owns the Buck’s Bar chain and Thundercat Diner in the city, has criticised the authorities for allowing the city to decline and wants Maule’s closure to prompt a response.

“The city lies in a state of filth and dilapidation.”

David Low of Lowdit Partners, said: “As an extensive city traveller I can say with conviction that Glasgow has one of the filthiest and depressing city centres you’ll come across in Europe. Who would go there unless they really had to?”

Speaking to The Herald, Ms Aitken blamed the “shortsighted” strategies of previous administrations for the state of the city centre. Attempts to stimulate residential development had been stymied by the pandemic, she said.

Susan Aitken Glasgow City Council
Susan Aitken: ‘we are attracting investment’ (pic: Terry Murden)

She insisted the city was not in need of “saving” and was attracting more private investment than it had in decades, including a multi-million pound investment to convert the Met Tower off George Square into a technology hub.

It is hoped that replacing ineffective compulsory purchase orders with compulsory sales orders will allow officials to deal more effectively with the rising number of post-pandemic vacant properties.

A Scottish government spokesperson said: “The use of CPO is subject to confirmation by Scottish ministers and we cannot therefore comment on the merits of individual cases.

“We recognise that compulsory purchase legislation is in need of reform and have committed to do so.”

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