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Red Road secrecy uncovered

HOUSING chiefs sought to use legal powers against residents unwilling to evacuate their homes to accommodate the axed Commonwealth Games opening ceremony plans, it has emerged.

SHELVED Plans to demolish the Red Roads flats proved unpopular.
SHELVED Plans to demolish the Red Roads flats proved unpopular.

New details secured under freedom of information (FOI) legislation show that agencies involved in the proposed demolition of Glasgow's Red Road flats were aware of how logistically fraught and controversial the plans were.

Correspondence reveals how the plans were kept secret from board members of Glasgow Housing Association (GHA), how authorities used the figure of 1875 people affected by the plans and not the 887 households used in public announcements and the reasons provided for not giving local residents tickets for the opening ceremony at Celtic Park.

It also emerged yesterday that senior police officers were concerned the plans could create a huge dust cloud affecting aviation airspace, would also divert resources away from the Games area and have a significant impact on public transport.

Correspondence shows one senior officer claiming closure of a nearby railway line could hinder an emergency evacuation from Celtic Park and raised the issue of the cost of additional policing.

The 1960s high-rises in the north-east of Glasgow were due to be demolished as the curtain raiser to the July 23 opening ceremony, in what was supposed to signify the ongoing regeneration of Glasgow.

But a combination of a public backlash and safety fears that the site might be hijacked by protesters led to the demolition of five of the six blocks being cancelled.

Emails show that GHA, which owns the flats, had asked the city council about using statutory powers if residents did not leave.

An email from a senior council officer states: "It was put forward that their intention is for us to assist with the removal of occupants of adjacent buildings on the day of the explosive demolition who could not be persuaded to remove by voluntary means. This would be on the basis that the buildings could be considered to be in a dangerous condition."

But it adds that the flats would not have been considered dangerous and that although GHA wanted to revisit the issue, the officer "saw no scope for changing my opinion".

Correspondence from GHA to Glasgow 2014 board member Bridget McConnell and city council chief executive George Black and dated from March 24 - 10 days before the plans were publicly announced - shows how the agency was keeping its own board, which includes tenants and councillors, in the dark over the plans.

The email states: "We will pull the Red Road demolition presentation from the GHA board agenda for this Friday.

"When the date for the press briefing is pinned down for next week we will arrange to brief our board members on the day, either face to face or on a call/email."

Regarding plans for decanted residents, a Glasgow 2014 Organising Committee official told Mrs McConnell and Mr Black the transportation of nearly 2000 residents would be a headache, adding: "The OC and the council regularly receive requests for various forms of compensation for displaced residents and businesses.

"Free tickets are the most common form of compensation and to date all such requests have been declined. Should we progress with the option of tickets to the ceremony we will need to consider carefully the knock-on risk to the OC and the council that may stem from apparent inconsistency."

A GHA spokesman said: "We were simply exploring all options around all aspects of this demolition as we do in every case."

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Local government

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