The Fountain in Alexandria – the new site which the council are selling off for private housing is located in nearby Wilson Street. Picture by Bill Heaney
BILL HEANEY’S NOTEBOOK COLUMN
There have been scandalous revelations in the media in recent weeks about the horrific conditions large numbers of people in Scotland have to live in. And to die in the streets or huddled together in stinking, rotten slum accommodation provided by private landlords — and even by councils.
West Dunbartonshire is one of the worst places to live in, according to the most recent statistics, which state that no less than 196 homeless people died here.
This was despite the fact that the West Dunbartonshire Council housing department officials are amongst the best in the country, according to Councillor Jim Bollan.
So then, if the officers are that efficient and sympathetic – which is essential in this line of work – why is this happening here?
It couldn’t be bacuse the SNP administration, led by Cllr Jonathan McColl, are not investing in building new houses or refurbishing old ones in places such as the Vale of Leven?
I mentioned in my Notebook column recently that two “disused and overgrown sites” in Alexandria are to be sold by West Dunbartonshire Council to a housing company for £700,000.
The story this week in the Dumbarton Reporter states: “The abandoned plots of land at Charleston Way and Wilson Street, which are covered in vegetation, will be transformed into a residential area by Bingham Homes and Co Ltd provided planning permission is approved.”
Hands up anyoner who has ever seen a site earmarked for housing that was NOT in that condition or similar?
The council spin doctors have excelled themselves on this one by adding: “Around 35 new four and five bedroom homes are expected to be developed in total on the site which is underused and has attracted anti-social behaviour including fly tipping in the past.”
The site sounds hellish except that if you scrape the surface – literally – it wil become a pleasant brown field site near Alexandria town centre – “It is anticipated that the development will provide new affordable homes within the community.”
These houses will be warm and dry and much sought after, but hold on.
They are for private homes, not for homeless people or or people on the council waiting list who, the official homeless statistics show, are desperate.
And this is not because that fact is being played up by people like me just because we are on the cusp of Christmas and this ties in with the story of Joseph and Mary for whom there was no room at the inn.
An update was brought before the infrastructure, regeneration and economic development committee this week.
The committee knew fine well this site was for private not public housing, so the term “affordable housing” was slipped into the report to confuse the gullible.
Can anyone define “social housing”? Is it houses costing £100,000 or £500,000.
What really surprised me was that during the meeting Labour councillor Martin Rooney, whose party have made new house building a priority, was duped by this spin.
He said: “I am really pleased to see this report here. This is an area of land that we have been talking about developing for a number of years.
“It links up the centre of Alexandria with Alexandria and Argyll Park. We have seen the care home and other houses being developed in Charleston Way so it makes sense to develop along the site.
“I think it works particularly well linking up that stretch of land along the railway land. I would be interested to know what size the houses will be as it looks like decent plots of land for the houses.”
A council officer said that it was understood that three and four bedroom properties would be developed along the site and that would be confirmed during the planning process.
A planning application will now be drafted and submitted to the local authority in due course.
Let’s hope Labour and others on the Council forget about the £700,000 they are said to be receiving for this site, which is owned by the public of this area and – in the desperate situation we currently find ourselves housingwise in West Dunbartonshire – should be retained by the public authority.
Picture above: Housing of this type is being built in other parts of West Dunbartonshire