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.
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)
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 -
(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!)