Scotland's biggest council has been landed court action after rejecting an environmental impact assessment on one of the nation's biggest proposed demolition projects.

Campaigners have launched a new judicial review to fight the demolition saying the action to avoid the assessment was "disregarding the law of the land" and "irrational".

The city council is already facing a £10,000 legal costs bill after admitting it erred in law over a previous decision that meant the demolition of four 26-storey towers at Wyndford in the Maryhill area of Glasgow could go ahead effectively without a full assessment of the environmental consequences of the plan.

Campaigners fighting the demolition say the action to avoid the impact assessment means the demolition can go ahead without councillors ever considering whether it should get planning permission.

The council says an assessment is not required because the demolition is "not likely to have significant effect on the environment".

They previously won a court battle over the council's actions, with judge Lord Lake ruling, following a concession from the council, that "adequate reasons" were "not provided" in terms of the law surrounding use of impact assessments in decision-making campaigners won.

The council said it had agreed a joint minute that its decision on not having an impact assessment erred in law only by "failing to adequately explain the basis" of it.

The minute stated that the council "acknowledge... that the interests of [the campaigners] were prejudiced by a failure to comply with the relevant requirements and that for this reason alone the decision may properly be quashed by the court".

Campaigners had seen the judgement as a victory in their fight to stop £100m development plans put forward by Scotland's biggest publicly funded housing association, the Wheatley Group.

In the new legal battle, the campaigners' solicitors say that the council has applied the "wrong test" for deciding that an EIA was not required.

The Herald: Wyndford

It says the correct test is that the project is likely to "have significant effects on the environment".

The campaigners' legal team are negotiating with the council's lawyers over a future Court of Session date to thrash out the arguments.

A previous 'shocking' screening analysis admitted there was a danger of the production of hazardous or toxic waste during construction or operation or decommissioning. This came from asbestos and construction or demolition waste.

There was a risk of accidents during construction or operation of the development which could have an effect on people or the environment.

This related to "explosions, spillages and fires through the storage, handling and use or production of hazardous or toxic substances".

It found that the development would release pollutants or hazardous, toxic or noxious substances related to combustion of fossil fuels, construction activities and dust or odours from handling of materials including construction paraphernalia, sewage and waste.

The checkbox analysis found that many people would be affected and that there was the potential for a "significant environmental impact". The council said this was able to be addressed through its prior approval process.

There was an acceptance that there would be a risk to human health either during the construction or operation of the development. That involved air pollution from operational vehicle traffic and noise issues during the demolition period.

But the council says the risks can be accommodated by mitigation measures.

The campaigners' legal advice is that that constitutes an "error in law" saying the correct test over whether to carry out an EIA is whether it is likely there will be significant effects on the environment, not whether they can be adequately controlled.

Nick Durie, of the Wyndford Residents Union which is wanting Scottish Government intervention and said they had legal aid to proceed with the case said: "What we have seen ad nauseum is a barefaced disregard for the law of the land.

The Herald:

"We see it now with a council that once before got its knuckles wrapped by the Court of Session, ignoring that last verdict and ploughing on with the same contempt for planning law it exhibited before.

"There has to come a point where these haughty arrogant authorities are dragged back to behaving like Scotland is still a democracy, and we in the Wyndford Residents Union are exerting every fibre of our body to restore that democracy that these mini empires have tried to abolish."

Their legal advice says the council was "not entitled to leave environmental concerns to be addressed by mitigation measures".

They say the approach to mitigation measures was "irrational" and that the council was "required to consider the degree of uncertainty" over them.

"The proposed mitigation measures do not form part of the policy, are not modest in scope, and are not plainly or easily achievable. The proposed mitigation measures, in of themselves, are likely to have a significant effect on the environment," said the campaign advisors.

They say that while a previous council analysis in March noted that there was a risk to human health from combustion of fossil fuels and air pollution, the new one does not consider it.

They say that the new analysis does not consider the magnitude of the impact of the demolition with reference to the size of the population likely to be affected.

And they say the council was obliged to consider biodiversity in their latest analysis but "failed to do so".

The Wyndford blocks have been earmarked for demolition by the Wheatley Group which wants to replace the existing 600 social housing units – only around 10 percent of which are still occupied – with 386 affordable homes, 85% of which are planned for social rent.

Besides housing, a two-storey, purpose-built community hub, owned and managed by Glasgow City Council is also proposed.

This will include a large hall, cafe space, bookable rooms and free access to computers.

The Herald: 171 is one of four tower blocks in Wyndford that are earmarked for demolition. Photograph by Colin Mearns.

The residents union and the Scottish Tenants Organisation (STO) believe the existing flats can be safely retained and retrofitted. But Wheatley say that it is too difficult and expensive.

Wyndford estate was designed by Ernest Buteux, chief technical officer for the Scottish Special Housing Association (SSHA) from 1959-78. He was thought to be influenced by the designs of Le Corbusier – the father of modern architecture. It was built on a 55 acre site at the old Maryhill barracks, was estimated to cost £4m.

The anti-demolition campaign is backed by leading Scottish architects Alan Dunlop, Kate Macintosh and Malcolm Fraser.

A council spokesman said: “The council will respond appropriately once it has received details of the legal action.”

A Wheatley Homes Glasgow spokesman said that claims that there is a significant effect on the environment and that a previous "shocking"  analysis admitted there was a danger of the production of hazardous or toxic waste were "sensationalist" and "deliberately alarmist"  and yet "another attempt of scaremongering about matters that are completely standard when it comes to demolitions".

He said:  “The judicial review and Environmental Impact Assessment are both matters for Glasgow City Council."

“There are demolition programmes taking place across Scotland, for example in New Gorbals, Lanarkshire and Ayrshire – all of which follow the same, standard procedures. There is nothing new and nothing different here. 

“As we have said many times before, anyone who knows anything about planning and regeneration will be aware of these normal practices, carried out on every aspect of demolition proposals. Plans are then put in place to mitigate any potential risks identified.”