Former housing chief attacks Blackness Road flats demolition decision as families face losing their homes

© DC Thomson
Emma Barry and Jamie Macmillan with daughter Sophia. They found out in The Courier that their home is to be demolished because of the conditions of their block's external stairwell.

Families in a demolition-threatened block of Dundee flats have pledged to do all they can to remain in their West End homes.

Concerns over the future landscape of the city’s historic West End have been raised following a decision to demolish the block of Victorian-era flats at 219-245 Blackness Road.

One young family were only informed their house was being knocked down after reading about it in Wednesday’s Courier.

The destruction order was given after it was found repairs to the external stairwells to the rear of the building would be too expensive.

Retired councillor Jimmy Black, who headed up the old housing committee on Dundee City Council, said allowing the stairwells to deteriorate beyond the point of repair at 219-245 Blackness Road had been a “cruel way to treat people”.

The sandstone block, which was erected in the 1890s to house the city’s rapidly expanding jute mill workforce, is to be demolished after engineers reported the stairwells will last no longer than five more years.

© Kris Miller
The crumbling stairwells to the back of the Blackness Road tenement block.

Demolishing and then redeveloping the site will cost £4.5 million.

Despite a public consultation, there has been an angry backlash against the decision.

© DC Thomson
Damage to the stairwells brickwork on stairwells that are crumbling.

Private renters Emma Barry, 26, and Jamie Macmillan, 33, live in the south of the block, with two-year-old daughter Sophia and said they only found out what was happening when they read it in The Courier this week.

Student nurse Emma wants to stay in the area close to the university, Ninewells Hospital and her daughter’s nursery.

© DC Thomson
Emma Barry and Jamie Macmillan.

Partner Jamie, 33, the manager of Frankie and Benny’s restaurant in the Overgate, said: “We had not really been told anything.

“We received a letter ahead of the consultation process in March but were unaware they had made a decision until we picked up a paper on Wednesday.

“We have been in contact with our landlord, who thinks the whole thing will take around a year to happen. It means we have about six months to get everything sorted.”

Emma said: “We originally thought they were going to repair the stairwells and we didn’t know the roof was broken also.”

Wilma Chalmers lives in the middle of the tenement with her daughter and their dog.

She said: “They have made clear we can come back, but I won’t be convinced until I am re-homed.

“I would absolutely hate to leave the West End. My daughter is at the local primary school and I love living in the West End.

“You might see me in a tent on the back lawn soon, because I really don’t want to leave this part of the city.”

The demolition on its own is estimated to cost £310,000 and the council believes they will have to spend £800,000 on buy backs and associated payments for the 10 privately-owned flats, totaling at least £1.1 million.

To repair the stairwells, the council estimates will cost in the region of £880,000 to £1.2 million.

Mr Black said: “You could say that demolishing part of the city’s Victorian fabric to make way for modern new homes is a good thing. I wouldn’t. These homes are well placed for schools and shops in the West End and have open views over the city.

“With new stair towers they would be just as attractive to tenants and sell just as well as the flats on the other side of Blackness Road. To demolish them is just wrong.”

© DC Thomson
Former councillor Jimmy Black.

Deputy convener of neighbourhood services, Councillor Anne Rendall, said: “The cost estimated to repair the stairwells on Blackness Road was a phenomenal amount.

“We want to have houses in the city that are adaptable for different uses and are modern, contemporary and safe. We are satisfied with the decision which was made at the neighbourhood services committee.”