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Photo-essay by Islay McLeod

Inside
Ghost
City

Glasgow north-east is crawling with politicians and their supporters for Thursday's by-election. But, in the heart of the constituency, there is a place uncanvassed and forgotten. The few remaining occupants of the Fountainwell Road flats have no security, no protection, and sometimes no water. Why is anyone still living there?


At first glance, it's unoccupied, derelict, fit only for demolition

 


Built in the 1960s, the estate has suffered years of neglect and has been partially demolished

 


The CCTV cameras have been removed. The buzzer system no longer functions. You just push the door open and find yourself in a dark stairwell. This is Saturday afternoon

 


The atmosphere is claustrophobic. It's
a scary experience

 


The area is notorious for drug-related crime

 


Almost all of the flats have been vacated and now have metal shutters and bolted doors

 


This floor is deserted

 


But on this floor, there are signs of humanity. A small miracle: there is someone still living in one of the flats – a young man called Mark – and he has created a haven for himself
amid the desolation

 


For his own protection, he erected a metal shutter over his front door – this, after he had been the victim of attempted break-ins at 2 in the morning. He has been ordered to remove the metal shutter, but refuses to do so. He has also created an improvised garden on his balcony. He has been ordered to take that down too. Last Christmas and New Year, he was without water for three weeks. Mark has been here for 10 years. He has no idea when he will be moved. He is intelligent and well-spoken. He does not wish to be photographed. He feels threatened. He will not be voting on Thursday

 


A typical scene further along the corridor

 


At end of the corridor live 77-year-old John Daly and his wife Ruth, aged 75. They were among the original occupants of the flats 40 years ago. They say it was a great place then. People were queuing up for a tenancy. They brought up their family here. Sixteen years ago, encouraged by the government, they bought their flat. 'Now we're being punished for that,' says Ruth, who is recovering from a stroke and has lost the sight of one eye as a result. The couple are marooned. The water supply 'comes and goes' says John. The last time it went off, the landlord's representative gave them four litre bottles of water. As owner-occupiers, they contributed £2,000 towards the cost of CCTV cameras as the area declined. After the cameras were removed, the Dalys applied for compensation – so far unsuccessfully. They were offered a flat above shops in nearby Royston. The first thing they saw was a garden littered with Buckfast bottles. Lots of young people were hanging around outside. They refused the flat. Ruth says they were told 18 months ago that they would be re-housed, but they're still waiting for somewhere decent. 'There's no point in painting or papering inside. There's no point in buying a new three-piece suite. We're living in a ghost city.' Their children have begged them to pack up and go and live with them. But they are independent and they want a fair deal. They are bitter about what they see as the years of neglect of the property and about their treatment by the landlord. They pay £720 a year in council tax

 


The entrance to block 2. It's flooded
inside and out

 


This is what passes for security

 



Throughout this block, there is the sound of running water inside heavily-shuttered, abandoned flats

 


Yet, astonishingly, at the end of a corridor furthest away from the front door, there are two people still living in this devastated block. The one I spoke to said he felt insecure and threatened but was making the best of it. He said he hoped to be out within the next few weeks. He did not wish to be photographed

The Fountainwell Road estate is managed by the largest social landlord in Europe, Glasgow Housing Association, a creation of the Scottish Government

All photographs Copyright Institute of Contemporary Scotland, 2009

 

 

 

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10.11.09
Issue no 166

Special Edition

Inside
Ghost City

In photographs and words, the hidden shame of this
week's by-election
Islay McLeod reports
[click here]

Justice for
Mr and Mrs Daly

Kenneth Roy
says the victims should be
decently rehoused and
properly compensated
[click here]

Also today...

We have no choice
Isabel Montgomery
Following last week's SR
disclosures, the president of the Private Rented Housing Panel
admits that the decisions it
makes 'can cause tenants considerable distress and
hardship' but it is obliged
to carry out the law
[click here]

Next edition:
Wednesday