New bill offers opportunities to tackle unsafe buildings

This week my colleague David Stewart MSP launched a Member’s Bill in the Parliament that I believe could have a constructive role to play in addressing the issue of sorting our dangerous buildings. 

The Buildings Repair (Scotland) Bill would provide local authorities powers to recoup costs incurred in dealing with defective or dangerous buildings.  This is similar to the mechanism used for statutory repairs but the new legislation offers the chance for the Parliament to understand the lessons that need to be learned from Edinburgh’s situation.

If the Bill progresses through Parliament, I will be offering to give evidence to the committee to ensure that there are proper safeguards in place to protect residents from a repeat of the dreadful experience property owners have suffered in Edinburgh.

I’ve said consistently that the city needs the powers to ensure that repairs are carried out to buildings when they are falling into disrepair or pose a danger to public health.   The mismanagement of statutory repairs in Edinburgh has been both a political and an administrative failure.  

Basic safeguards such as ensuring proper survey work is carried out and that residents are given the chance to sort out problems before the Council steps in are basic.  So too is the need for effective scrutiny to prevent the massive hikes both in the costs of work and the scale of works that Edinburgh owners have been subjected to. 

As we experience more stormy weather and as our older buildings deteriorate, local authorities need to be able to charge owners for work carried out.  At the moment they don’t have sufficient powers to charge commercial property owners and have to take owners to court to recover monies for work carried out.  

With all legislation the key will be ensuring that there is a healthy consultation process and that the detail in the final bill is right.  But I do believe this is a step forward in relation to the safety of buildings across the country to tackle the barriers and obstacles to action.