ANOTHER Scottish council has announced proposals to pull down all its high rises after London’s Grenfell disaster.

North Ayrshire says it wants to replace its seven tower blocks with low-rise homes rather than spend millions on sprinklers and other upgrades for the buildings.

Its move comes after Scotland’s biggest council landlord, North Lanarkshire, said it planned to demolish its even bigger stock of high flats.

But North Ayrshire wants to move even faster than North Lanarkshire, replacing nearly 400 homes by 2023.

The local authority has checked its blocks - five in Irvine and two in Saltcoats - and found they don’t have the cladding linked to the fire at Grenfell tower, believed toi have claimed 71 lifes.

But it has found upgrades to the homes and maintenance would cost £22m over the 25 years. Yet knocking them down and putting up new - better houses - would cost only £22m more.


Council Leader Joe Cullinane at Irvine flats

Council Leader Joe Cullinane on Thursday began a formal consultation with residents over the proposals.

He said: “In the coming weeks and months, we will speak to all of our residents and offer them the chance to tell us face-to-face their thoughts on these ambitious proposals.

“From my point of view, this is an amazing opportunity to not only improve the quality of our council houses, but to improve the lives of our tenants and help with the ongoing transformation and regeneration of both the Fullarton and Saltcoats communities.

“There are clear links between better housing and better health – if we can provide that better standard of accommodation to our tenants, we can see their quality of life improve at the same time.”

A final decision on the high flats is unlikely to be made until later this year, said council officials. Tenants and home-owners will get a say.

The North Ayrshire Council cabinet will hear three options for the blocks next Tuesday.

These are:

• Retain all seven towers blocks and launch an improvements programme, including installation of sprinklers, alongside regular maintenance at a total cost of £22.5m over 25 years.

• Demolish all seven blocks and replace with low-rise housing constructed on-site and elsewhere, at a net additional cost of £22.1m, to be completed by 2023.

• Demolish the five Irvine tower blocks only, with replacement low rise housing constructed on-site and elsewhere, and retain the Saltcoats tower blocks, at a net additional cost of £14.4m.

If cabinet approves the options, a consultation will begin next month and its fundings discussed by the council in the summer.

Councillor Cullinane added: “The relatively small difference in costs between retaining the high flats and building new properties means it’s definitely worth exploring if this is the best option for both our tenants and the Council.

“Rather than spend millions of pounds maintaining ageing high flats, would it be better to redirect that money to invest in brand-new, high quality housing?

“We are committed to investing in our communities and have already laid out our intention to complete the construction of 1000 new homes across North Ayrshire by 2022.

The five Irvine blocks at Fullarton dominate the skyline of the Clyde coast town. Their demolition would come after the town’s iconic Magnum Centre

They have no owner-occupiers. There are several in the Saltcoats flats and they will be subject to

In a move that will transform the skyline of much of the Central Belt, North Lanarkshire Council said it aims to pull down more than 4000 high-rise homes over two decades.

The local authority will begin formal consultations with residents early next year but made it clear it sees its housing future as much closer to the ground than now.

Council leader Jim Logue stressed the demolitions would be part of a half-billion-pound move to breathe new life in to the area’s string of medium-sized town centres, such as Coatbridge, Motherwell and Airdrie, and improve housing.

Analysis: Why blazes could change the landscape of Scotland

It was the high rise blaze which last shocked Scotland. Nearly two decades before Grenfell a 14-storey block went up in flames.

One man died. Many more, including a 15-month baby, were injured. 
The 1999 disaster, at Garnock Court, one of five tower blocks in the new town of Irvine provoked an inquiry and a reassessment of Scottish fire safety rules for multi-storeys.

Their owner, North Ayrshire Council, ordered cladding and PVC windows removed "at whatever cost".

Scotland's provincial high rises, however, survived that tragedy. Their future now looks uncertain after Grenfell. And not because the homes are dangerous like the London block, but because last year's fire has provoked a financial rethink of multi-storeys.

Tower blocks are expensive to maintain even without the additional costs of sprinklers and other upgrades which residents are, understandably, seeking. 


Irvine fire, 1999

Take North Ayrshire. It reckons it will need some £22m to bring its seven buildings, none of which are necessarily hugely dangerous, up to scratch and keep them that way. 
But for just as much again it could provide far more comfortable low-rise homes. North Lanarkshire Council, Scotland's biggest council landlord, has made similar calculations. 
High rises, at least some, look set to stay in Scotland's cities. But our provincial towns may experience some dramatic changes in their landscape. And, yes, because of Grenfell.