Residents in a suburb of Scotland’s capital have come out victorious in a fight to improve their homes which had fallen into a state of “serious disrepair” – and will see a boost for the entire area.

Damp, mould and even an overgrown ivy causing structural damage and blocking out light were among the issues faced by those living in Lochend, Edinburgh.

Tenants across properties 70 and 72 Lochend Road South warned at the time that the climbing plant posed a serious fire hazard, but also faced chronic leaks, draughty windows and poorly insulated walls.

But following a campaign to improve conditions, the tenants’ union Living Rent has now welcomed improvements not just for the flat blocks but the entire area.

The City of Edinburgh Council has committed to a retrofitting programme worth £18 million at the height of the works for mixed tenure blocks in Lochend and Restalrig.

It will be carried out through the Mixed Tenure Improvement Scheme and see many flats ensured better energy efficiency as well as support bringing empty council homes back into use.

Members of Lochend Living Rent have been campaigning over disrepair and the neglect of their housing blocks by the council since the end of last year.

“After decades of neglect, the communities of Lochend, Craigentinny and Restalrig are relieved at the promise of improvements to our homes and wider community,” said Laura Jackman, a spokesperson for the new Lochend Living Rent branch.

She added: “It brings a level of excitement and hope for a vibrant and valuable Edinburgh suburb for all housing tenures, social and private renting tenants as well as private owners.

“This is a huge win for Living Rent members. As energy bills increase, the retrofitting programme will ensure residents in Lochend and Restalrig are more able to afford to heat their homes. 

“Such a huge win shows the power that we have when we come together and take collective action to push for what we need.” 

In December 2022, a protest was held outside Edinburgh City Chambers over a lack of action with the particular block of flats.

Some members even said at the time that the climbing ivy had become so overgrown it led to rats being able to access the property.

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The Herald: Ivy covers windows of Lochend flatsIvy covers windows of Lochend flats (Image: Living Rent)

Tenants also raised concerns about security risks to the stair doors in buildings numbered 70 and 71, which were seen as a safety risk as they could not be locked.

The Living Rent highlighted that the City of Edinburgh Council was failing to meet Scottish Housing Regulator Housing Quality Standards that stipulate that council homes must be among other factors free from serious disrepair and energy efficient.

A full inspection was carried out the week after union members took action and ivy was cleared from windows.

Frank Anthony, a council tenant, said: “This is an excellent win - but it should have been done ages ago.

“We’ve been neglected because we’re a poorer area and it’s not on. It will make a big difference - for a start I can now see out my windows.” 

The council has also committed to a full retrofitting of the blocks which will see external wall insulation and windows installed among other essential work.

The area-based retrofitting programme will be fully funded for council tenants and subsidised for many private owners and landlords.

Private rental tenant in Lochend Zoe Green said: “The work is urgently needed as many buildings have been neglected and left to fall into disrepair.

“This should bring transformative, long-term improvements to the area.

“However, it is important that the council don’t put the burden of paying for the work on working-class homeowners who aren’t responsible, or let landlords in the area increase rents in order to offset costs as this could further disadvantage many who are already struggling due to the cost of living crisis.”

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Councillor Jane Meagher, convener of the housing, homelessness and fair work committee, said the retrofit programme comes as part of the £173 million spending package agreed by the council in March.

She said: “In fact, more than 3,000 older homes in Edinburgh will benefit from retrofitting improvements – including around 230 blocks in Restalrig and Lochend.

“The work we are doing will make homes modern, greener, and more accessible. In many cases, we’ll drastically overhaul the fabric of buildings and improve energy performance.

“This will help with issues like damp, help to lower tenants’ fuel costs and support Edinburgh’s net zero carbon by 2030 commitment. It will take some time to roll out and it may involve a bit of short-term disruption, but the longer-term benefits for tenants will be significant.

“I am pleased that we’ll be able to carry out this work and that the news is being received positively by Living Rent. It’s so important that we continue to listen to our tenants so that we can continue to invest in the areas which will make the biggest difference to people’s lives.”