Arrest warning for fire-displaced residents

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Image caption Displaced residents gathered on Sunday to protest at the lack of access to their homes since last month’s Glasgow School of Art fire

Business owners and residents displaced by the Glasgow School of Art fire have been warned they face arrest if they try to access their properties.

The warning from the city council and police came after frustrated residents said they intended to breach a cordon around the school to retrieve property.

They have been unable to access their homes and premises since the building was gutted by fire last month.

Glasgow City Council said the building remained in a dangerous state.

Police Scotland confirmed that anyone entering the cordon may be arrested “on the grounds of concern for their safety”.

A brick-by-brick dismantling of unsafe sections of the Mackintosh building is expected to take several more weeks.

Naya Koulocheri, who has not been allowed back into her rented flat on Sauchiehall Street since the fire, told BBC Scotland that between 30 and 50 people were expected to turn up at the cordon at midday on Sunday.

She said: “We are planning to peacefully gather and to protest. We don’t want to break the law. We need access to our properties and hopefully that can start today.

“We feel drained – that’s how 99% of the business owners and residents feel. It’s been a long time and we are running out of energy.”

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption The Glasgow School of Art, Mackintosh building, is currently being dismantled

Earlier, a “notice of entry” letter was circulated by Garnethill Displaced Residents Group and Sauchiehall Street Inner Cordon Businesses, demanding “full and legal access” to their properties from noon.

It read: “This will be accomplished in an orderly and peaceful manner in succession, one at a time, and for a period of 10-20 minutes, having full understanding and recognition of the risks associated therewith…”

Responding by email to the letter, Glasgow City Council chief executive Annemarie O’Donnell said the cordon should not be breached at any time until building control officers declared that the structures hit by the fire were no longer dangerous.

She continued: “This is because the building may be subject to a sudden, unannounced, collapse.

“The building has suffered significant trauma, as a result the walls have moved in ways which will certainly lead to parts of the building collapsing. That collapse could happen without warning.

“Anyone in any adjacent buildings in the path of falling masonry would be at risk of death.

“I note from your letter that you intend to take this action ‘having full understanding and recognition of the risks associated’.

“However the law compels the council to protect life, regardless of whether you wish to accept that risk.”

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption The building is being dismantled brick by brick

Ms O’Donnell said legislation also empowered the council to evacuate buildings which were dangerous, or made dangerous by an adjacent building.

She added: “Anyone who has been displaced in this way and reoccupies the building while it is still dangerous is committing a criminal offence.”

Police said officers remained at the cordon for public safety purposes.

A police spokesman said: “The building has been deemed dangerous by Glasgow City Council and anyone who enters the cordon is putting themselves at risk.

“If anyone enters the cordon they may find themselves arrested, however, this would be on the grounds of concern for their safety and in order to protect them.”

Open letter

Business owners and residents affected by the art school fire recently wrote an open letter to First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, claiming that the local council was overwhelmed by the recovery task.

It claimed key officials had taken leave and that the council appeared to be “on holiday”.

In a tweet on Saturday, Ms Sturgeon wrote: “The issues raised in your letter are being properly and thoroughly considered (which does take a bit of time) before a full response is sent, hopefully early next week.”

Glasgow City Council has insisted that it has gone beyond statutory requirements in providing assistance.

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