I know we’re all a little cautious about referendums these days but I bring you good news. A people’s vote is about to be held in Glasgow that’s genuinely positive and will, I hope, help to resolve an ongoing and fiery campaign by a group of Glaswegians who’ve shown an impressive refusal to take no for an answer.

I’m talking about the people of Wyndford in Maryhill, where residents were told that four high-rise blocks in their area were going to be demolished and that’s that. The housing association behind the decision, Wheatley, said it had carried out a survey of the locals and they were overwhelmingly in favour of the plans; Glasgow City Council then signed off the demolition and that was starting to look like the end of it.

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But no. For months now, a determined group of campaigners have been fighting the demolition and they’re starting to score some significant successes. In a judicial review last year for example, the council admitted it failed to provide adequate reasons for not doing an assessment on the environmental impact of demolition, which is pretty extraordinary given that one of the stated reasons for pulling down the high-rises was that the replacement houses were going to be eco-friendly. Whatever: the council’s failure means the demolition is now officially on pause while they look again at the issue of the assessment.

A new development this week may also be significant. For a little while now, the campaigners, supported by a few refreshingly outspoken architects, have been raising money for a survey of opinion among the residents and they’ve now got the £4,000 they need. It means an independent election agent will run a poll of the locals and when the result is announced, it could genuinely change the way this story ends.

It’s important to say that, from the outset, the campaigners have been determined their survey should be properly independent as well as comprehensive. They believe Wheatley’s original poll did not canvass opinion thoroughly enough. They also believe it allowed the housing association to unfairly claim that the community was overwhelmingly behind demolition.

The campaigners say their new survey is going to be different. Conducted by an independent group that runs elections and referendums, the ballot papers will carry the campaigners’ arguments on one side and Wheatley’s on the other and will be sent out on February 15th. A public meeting will then be held on the 17th to discuss the issues, with a deadline for returning the papers of March 22nd. Most importantly, everyone in Wyndford will get a ballot: 1,309 households.

Obviously, the campaigners are keen to get a certain result from the poll, and they’ve already been out chapping doors, but the process will be independent and no one should be afraid of local democracy, least of all the housing association which has consistently emphasised the importance of it. The people I’ve spoken to also tell me that, from the door-knocking they’ve done, the residents of Wyndford are about 2 to 1 against demolition and if that’s how it turns out, it will be a serious reason to stop the process and think again.

The Herald: Wyndford flatsWyndford flats (Image: free)

In fact, there are some in Wyndford who believe the change is happening already and that the council may be getting cold feet. Any new assessment it carries out is likely to show demolition comes with environmental cost, but another factor at play is who can live in the flats. With the number of refugees in Glasgow on the rise, the council needs houses and there are potentially hundreds available in the Wyndford flats. In other words, demolition looks like the wrong response to a real problem.

Naturally, I spoke to someone at Wheatley and they told me they would have no part in the new survey. They said it was an attempt to overturn the result of their consultation, which was sent to over 1,400 tenants, was overseen by the independent consultation body TPAS Scotland, and showed that tenants were overwhelmingly in favour of the regeneration. Wheatley also told me they’d made a promise to the tenants who moved out that they could return to Wyndford and have priority for one of the new homes. To ignore those tenants, they said, would be a gross betrayal of trust.

I think it’s perfectly fair for Wheatley to make those arguments – there are two sides to the story. There are also tenants who support demolition such as Henry McLaren, who co-chairs the Wyndford Futures Focus Group. Mr McLaren says the views of his group and the tenants they represent are clear: they are 100% behind the plans to demolish the four blocks and build new affordable homes.

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It may be that they get their way as well: the four blocks are being stripped prior to demolition as we speak. But it may also be that the new survey ends up being a turning point. One of the campaigners told me the other day that if the survey means they can say “with one voice, one roar” that demolition is against the aspirations of the community, it will undermine the housing association’s arguments about legitimacy, and I think they could be right.

It also means change could really be on the way. Not so long ago, I think I would have said that, despite the amazing local campaign, the Wyndford flats were likely to come down in the end anyway. Now? I’m not so sure.