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Showing posts with label Crichel Down affair. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Crichel Down affair. Show all posts

Friday, 11 March 2011

St.Patrick’s Day 2011 - but forced eviction day for the Jaconellis? Less than one week from today!

Discussion of the Margaret Jaconelli case - online, email and direct - with a wide range of people, sadly indicates that the press and Glasgow City Council campaign of misinformation about the real nature of this case has had its negative impact. Trying to cut through that has been dispiriting, but for Margaret and Jack Jaconelli and their family, I must try again.

And so we come to an ordinary family in the east end of Glasgow in the year 2006 - the Jaconellis, of Ardenlea Street, Dalmarnock.

THE JACONELLIS in 2006 - and in March 2011

Margaret Jaconelli has lived at 10 Ardenlea Street, Dalmarnock since she was 17  - since 1976. She and her husband owned their two-bedroom, substantial and comfortable red sandstone flat on the ground floor of the tenement building. The house had been owned by them, then sold to Bridgeton and Dalmarnock housing association in 1981, then bought back in 1998 for £30,000. (The terms of the initial sale and buyback from the housing association were that 10 years had to elapse before a buyback was possible.)

Although the Jaconellis bought the house back in 1998, the purchase price was based on a 1990 valuation of £30,000, when in fact property prices had risen substantially in the period 1990-1998, and the Jaconellis, in common with anyone who bought a rented property from a housing association or council, felt that this was a good deal and they now owned,  free and clear, a property that was worth considerably more.

This point is vital to considering the equity of the valuation and offer made in 2006 by GCC. £30,000 was a 1990 valuation, and property prices had risen substantially in that 16 year period, even in Glasgow East. Because of hard work and thrift all of their lives they were financially stable, and enjoyed their community in Dalmarnock, surrounded by friends, neighbours and friendly local shops and businesses.

All that was about to change - the storm clouds were gathering for Margaret, her family and their friends and neighbours.

They had been well aware of the Glasgow East regeneration plan, for the very good reason that those all around them who did not own their homes had been forced out of their rented accommodation by GCC, who announced their intentions in 2001/2002 to pull the building down.

Developers had purchased plots of land near them years before, clearly in the hope that something big was coming, and in the expectancy that they could sell at a profit. That’s what developers do. Nobody seemed, however, to be developing anything - they appeared to be waiting for GCC to make its move.

And move they did, in the form of compulsory purchase orders in March 2006 for both housing, shops, businesses - and vacant plots of land owned by developers.

The law relating to compulsory purchase legislation is confused, sometime contradictory and of mind-bending complexity, even to lawyers. (I have spoken informally to a number of lawyers, and every one of them said that lawyers quailed before the legislation, and that it was an area for narrowly-focused experts - and there were few of them.) Since the Crichel Down scandal of the 1950s, this has been a scary, but vital area of the law.

What is certain is that the individual without unlimited private means has no chance against the formidable legal teams and tactics that can be deployed against them by the authority making the compulsory purchase.

I am a layman - I have no chance of understanding this legislation. But I have the duty, and the right as a citizen to form a judgement on when a gross injustice is likely to visited on ordinary people by the necessary process of compulsory purchase. Unlike a number of politicians and intelligent individuals who should know better, I don’t hide behind the facile excuse that it is best left to the law and lawyers, especially when the dice are heavily loaded and the game, if not quite fixed, usually has a pre-determined outcome.

Fortunately, Margaret Jaconelli has now got a fine, committed lawyer with a deeply-rooted concern for equity and justice - Mike Dailly of  Govan Law Centre.

Put as simply as I can, the facts as I understand them are these -

In 2006, Margaret Jaconelli’s home effectively became the property of Glasgow City Council. Their only duty at law was to value the property and offer compensation.

Margaret Jaconelli accepted - and still accepts (unlike the property owners in Aberdeen in the Trump dispute) that the Glasgow East Development was a good thing, and that it was inevitable that she and her family must vacate their home.

All she wanted was an offer of compensation that would

allow her to buy a new freehold property comparable to her own in an area of her choice

meet her legal costs of buying and moving

offer some financial recognition of the major disruption caused to her and her family.

In 2006, when GCC announced the compulsory purchases, two-bedroom red sandstone flats were selling in the wider area of the East of Glasgow for a media price of about £85,000/£90,000. Of course, property values in Ardenlea Street had already been adversely affect by the very Glasgow East Development blight that caused the compulsory purchase in the first place.

Margaret did not have the option of buying a property in Dalmarnock because it would no longer exist in its present form, and would become a vacant lot as the bulldozers moved in.

She therefore reasonably expected an offer somewhere in excess of £90,000 for all of the reasons set out above.

 She received instead, in March 2006, an offer of £30,000 - the price at which she had bought the house several years earlier, a price the same as the 1990 valuation - an offer that, after legal and moving costs were met, would effectively destroy her investment in her home, and throw her to the very bottom end of the housing market.

Her only legal remedy - and even that is questionable - was to accept the offer, move out and then fight her case for compensation to the Land Tribunal, a process that can take 7 to 10 years, with an uncertain outcome at the end of it, and major legal costs incurred.

But as if this was not bad enough, all around her, developers who had speculatively bought vacant plots of land or created them by demolishing what had previously stood upon the land, in spite of being subject to the same legislation, were making profits of millions - in one case selling land to GCC that they had bought for £45,000 for £5.5 million pounds.

How could this be? Simply because Glasgow City Council applied a valuation procedure apparently based on the now inflated potential value of the land based on future development, and then negotiated with the developers above that figure!

Margaret Jaconelli, in stark contrast, was valued based on the depressed value of properties in the area caused by GCC’s development plans, and was refused any chance to negotiate a fair settlement.

If this is not injustice, I don’t know what is, and if the law says this is equitable, then the law is not only an ass, it is bad, bad law.

Margaret, faced with this gross inequity of treatment, used the only bargaining chip she had - she refused to move out until a reasonable offer was made. I have to say that I would have done the same, and anyone in their right mind would have done the same.

Of course, with the award of the 2014 Commonwealth Games to Glasgow some time after 2006, the game changed dramatically, and Dalmarnock will now be the site of the Athlete’s Village. Margaret’s area will however be private housing built by Mactaggart and Mickel - in what is now described as “the highly-desirable riverside area in Dalmarnock”.

During the seven long, lonely years for Margaret and her family since 2004, the £30,000 offer stood as the only offer made by GCC. In that period, Margaret and her family have seen the flats above and around them vacated, the windows remove and boarded up, the area becoming a wasteland, and her heating bill consequentially soaring in one of the worst winter’s in living memory.

ALTERNATIVE ACCOMMODATION

A fundamental misunderstanding about the alternative accommodation offered to the Jaconellis by GCC exists, and has been kept alive by the press, and GCC. The facts are that Margaret Jaconelli has only ever been offered temporary rented accommodation, at rents of around £400 per month, and there has never been any firm offer of permanent rented accommodation. These offer were made just before a court appearance last year, and on very recently, then immediately withdrawn. No one in their right mind would have accepted such an offer under the circumstances, leaving aside the suitability of such rented accommodation.

END OF 2010 - THE FIRST REVISED OFFER

But at the end of last year, in November 2010, GCC upped the offer to £85,000, in settlement of all claims, an offer  that Margaret might well have accepted in 2006. But in 2010/2011, this offer, which took no recognition of her costs, her nightmare years as the only resident in the tenement block, and the rise in property values elsewhere, was not nearly enough to buy a two-bedroom red sandstone equivalent property in an area of her choice. Again she would have been forced to the lower end of the market.

Earlier this year, a verbal offer slightly above the £85,000 offer was made informally and verbally by telephone, to Margaret and to her lawyer. In spite of a request to have it confirmed in writing in order that the conditions attached could be evaluate, this was refused.

Margaret has requested mediation, now a well-established method of dispute resolution. This too has been refused by GCC.

Next Thursday, Margaret will face an appalling choice, one I don’t have to spell out, as her long fight comes near to its end, and the authorities arrive to evict her, by force if necessary. No one can advise her on how to make that choice but her family, and the end result is inevitable, given the law.

Margaret’s last hope in the very few days left to her, is her lawyer Mike Dailly’s appeal against the eviction. If anyone can secure justice against such a concentration of money, power and big city politics, it is Mike.

But these are worrying days for the Jaconellis.

GLASGOW EAST REGENERATION, AND MY COMMENT

Here is an extract from a factsheet about the Glasgow East regeneration project (see link for full report)

Welcome to Glasgow - online factsheet 2010

In 2004, following the Cities Review, The Scottish Executive (now Scottish Government), recognising the extent of Glasgow’s vacant land problem, allocated £10 million to Glasgow, for the reclamation of vacant and derelict land for the period 2004-2006. A subsequent allocation of £10m was made for the period 2006-2008. Programmes of projects were devised and implemented in partnership with Scottish Enterprise Glasgow and Communities Scotland, with approximately 180 ha of sites being treated and/or investigated. A further allocation of £13 million has been made for the period 2009-2011. This will focus upon delivering sites for the Commonwealth Games and supporting the Council’s key regeneration priorities.

There is a great silence about what led to the vacant and derelict land in the East End of Glasgow - it was not caused by a meteor strike or bombing by unseen enemies - it resulted from decades of neglect of their people by the Labour-dominated Glasgow City Council, coupled with a helluva lot of land being acquired by hard-eyed and expert developers at knock-down prices, with an eye to a future prosperity that only they could see, either because they were extraordinarily prescient, or because they acted upon hard information received from a variety of sources.

That is a developer’s job - to gather facts, both hard facts and rumours, to maintain solid links with politicians, to monitor the freely available minutes of council and governmental minutes and meetings, and to cultivate contacts who might have relevant information about which way the wind of change is blowing.

There’s nothing wrong with that - developers are not gamblers, and although they take financial risks, they are carefully calculated risks.

The record of urban development throughout the world is a record of entrepreneurial initiative, but it is also a record of sordid municipal and governmental corruption, of the trading of insider information for profit. This unsavoury record is documented in the press, in the records of the courts, in legal judgments, in prosecutions, and, significantly in films, drama, television and books. (The recent South Riding series on BBC, based on the book and set in the 1930s, was one such example of municipal corruption, even though the outcomes were desirable.)

How much of the development speculation associated with the Glasgow East regeneration project was legitimate, legal and ethical entrepreneurship, and how much - if any - was corrupt, we may never know. What we do know is the appalling record of the City of Glasgow over recent years. I need only mention the Purcell Affair - Purcell's gangster links - and its ramifications, the ALEO's- the cosy gravy  train, and other scandals involving expenses and complex links between media, PR firms, etc. to make the point that Glasgow City Council has never been the cleanest or most transparent of local authorities.

I have blogged extensively  on many of these matters - a couple of links -

The insidious corruption of democracy, ALEOs and GCC

Question in commons about Purcell and possible corruption in Glasgow

(My closing remarks in the Purcell blog seem hollow now, in that there was a Tory win and a hung Parliament, but we got something as bad or worse!)

Saturday, 15 January 2011

Margaret Jaconelli and Glasgow City Council - last chance saloon

This is the text of a letter to the Herald, which they have not published. There may be many reasons, including legal ones for that editorial decision, and it is one they have a right to make.

UNPUBLISHED LETTER TO THE HERALD

Next week (20th January) Margaret Jaconelli's final appeal against Glasgow City Council's compulsory purchase of her home and eviction order to clear the way for the development of the Commonwealth Games site is scheduled to go to a Court hearing. It will be preceded by a meeting with Glasgow City Council on the 18th, presumably to attempt to reach a last minute settlement before the Court hearing

If this decision goes against Margaret, a Scottish grandmother simply trying to get an equitable price for her tenement home, she will be faced with crippling legal costs which will destroy her economically and emotionally.

Her basic position as I understand it is to get a price that will enable her to buy a roughly comparable property in an area of her choice, and to have all legal costs of that purchase met.

Meanwhile, developers have reaped rich rewards from land purchase and re-sale deals with Glasgow Corporation, by a process of negotiation - exactly what Margaret appears to be being denied .

A gross inequity and perhaps a tragedy for an ordinary Glaswegian is in the making here, and it will leave a sad legacy hanging over the Commonwealth Games.

Where are the rich Glasgow firms, the entrepreneurs and the sports personalities who will reap rich benefits from the Games while the interests of the little people are threatened in this way?

Do the Scottish Government and the Labour Party want to enter their Holyrood election campaigns with this injustice hanging over them?

What are the elected representatives of Margaret Jaconelli and the others four claimants doing while this juggernaut of big business and celebrity sport rolls over ordinary, vulnerable people?

Make no mistake, this will be some politician's Crichel Down, indeed the Crichel Down scandal brought down a government minister and almost a government, leading to the Crichel Down rules, now probably outdated half a century on, in this brutal, uncaring, greedy society.

This case should be the subject of mediation, not cold, unfeeling legalistic procedures, with all the aces in the hands of Glasgow City Council and the developers. The amount of money required to settle is minuscule in relation to the huge budgets and profits of the Games.

For God's sake, Glasgow - doing the right thing is the right thing to do!

Wednesday, 3 November 2010

The Margaret Jaconelli Case – an injustice in the making

Recent information received on Margaret Jaconelli’s attempts to get a fair price and compensation for her home, a Glasgow granny facing compulsory purchase to acquire land for the Commonwealth Games development, leads me to believe that there is a major injustice in the making here, and that a relentless, pitiless legal juggernaut is in the process of rolling over this Glasgow grandmother and her husband.

Her case has, in the main, been presented in unsympathetic and in some cases inaccurate terms by a Scottish press too lazy to find the real story underlying the superficial, Daily Mail-type headlines that have unfairly portrayed her as greedy and unreasonable. There is greed and unreasonableness at work here, but it is not coming from Margaret Jaconelli but from those seeking to force her into accepting major disruption to her life on manifestly inequitable terms.

I intend to find out more, and so should any journalist worth their salt - and any local politician. It will be sad indeed if the justifiable pride of Glasgow and Scottish politicians in hosting the games is marred by an injustice.

Remember this, when you consider the facts as previously presented, some of which are appear to have been inaccurate - Margaret Jaconelli is not refusing to move, not trying to halt the progress of the work; she is trying to get a fair, negotiated price for her home of many years and for the stress and disruption she and her family have been put through by this relentless and implacable legal and commercial juggernaut.

Some individuals and some firms will make very big money indeed from this work, but even at her most ambitious price, which was simply an opening bid, Margaret Jaconelli will not.

Given the record of British politicians – with the honourable exception of the SNP – in exploiting property, property loopholes and expenses, and with some Scottish Labour politicians facing criminal prosecution for their activities, it behoves the honest politicians of Glasgow and Scotland to at least investigate this woman’s case more closely, and ideally champion it.

EXTRACT FROM 5th October 2010 BLOG

TRUMP and the GLESCA GRANNY

Let me nail my colours to the mast – I believe that if a development – international golf and hotel complex or Commonwealth games facilities are manifestly in the wider public interest, some people may have to lose their homes, property and land if they stand in the way of that, providing there has been full consultation and all relevant environmental, social, economic and personal arguments have been properly heard and adjudicated on.

If it happened to me, I would be sad, but I would recognise its inevitability and focus on getting the best price.

The objectors in Aberdeen on environmental grounds have been heard, and they have lost the argument. If such arguments had been accepted throughout the centuries, we would have no cities, no roads, no industry and no modern infrastructure in Scotland.

God knows, we are not short of wild unspoiled places, vibrant with animals, fish game and species in abundance, much of it regrettably in the grip of private landowners. I have no wish to turn Scotland into a concreted-over theme park, but neither do I want to see thousands of families condemned to unemployment and penury because of lack of work.

Those who are refusing to sell their homes are in another category entirely. I sympathise with them and I want them to get a price that reflects the hardship and emotional upheaval that the loss of their homes will visit on them, but I do not support their right to veto a major project by refusing outright to sell. So I have little sympathy for the Aberdeen protesters.

But I do stand up for Margaret Jaconelli, the Glasgow grandmother who has fought to get her idea of a fair price for over a decade for her two-bedroom flat in Dalmarnock. Unlike the Aberdeen protesters, who appear to have elicited public sympathy by virtue of the Scope-Severity Paradox (see above), she is well on her way to being demonised, together with her lawyer, for asking £300,000 for the land the Games authority wants to acquire and £60,000 for the inconvenience of being evicted.

Glasgow City Council plans to evict her for refusing to accept the £30,000 figure assessed by the District Valuer, a UK government agency under the compulsory purchase order.

When I was teaching negotiating skills in the early 1990s to managers and businesses of all kinds, I was introduced by Professor Gavin Kennedy, an international expert and best-selling author on negotiation, to the concept of ransom strips in property dealing, i.e. often small piece of land, privately owned, that stood in the way of a large, multi-million development. I used one of Gavin’s cases when I worked for him as director of Negotiate Ltd. to show how both ends of such a negotiation worked, the clear objective of the seller being to maximise the sale price and the buyer to minimise it.

No one, then or now, ever suggested that there was something immoral in recognising that the value of the land was determined, not by comparison with similar plots that were not the object of development, but by the particular circumstances of them being positional goods in the development context.

Governments don’t like such negotiating clout and good fortune to be in the hands of small property and landowners, however, hence the compulsory purchase legislation. While the UK government is totally reconciled to paying enormously inflated prices for armaments, defence contract, consultancy and IT projects based on market circumstances and leverage, they don’t like the idea of a Glesca granny trying to exploit her once in a lifetime opportunity.

Well, I do – go for it, Granny Margaret (she’s 23 years younger than me!) – get the best deal you can.

Do I think £300,000 for the land and £60,000 for the inconvenience excessive? Well, it’s an opening bid, and Margaret and her lawyer would, I’m sure, settle for a smaller amount in negotiation if she and her lawyer are permitted to bargain. But of course, they won’t be – the steamroller of local government and UK law will roll over them, in a city where municipal corruption has been endemic for generations, where dirty land and property deals have been the order of the day and where corrupt council officials who would have been sacked in any just society have been quietly retired with massive settlements and pensions over the decades.

But you’ve lost nothing by trying, Granny Margaret, and if there is any justice, you’ll still get the price offered, a new home, and with luck, tell your story to the tabloids and media and make a few bob.

Meanwhile, if there is a petition to protect you, I’ll sign it most willingly. But I won’t support your Aberdeen counterparts in their efforts to stay put.