Sunday, 21 September 2008

Sunday Herald: "I won't move out of my home for the 2014 games"

TEN  months after Glasgow rejoiced at being awarded the chance to be host city of the Commonwealth Games, a major regeneration project is under way to prepare for the Games and to transform the city's poorest areas. There is just one hitch: the last remaining residents in the area earmarked as the athlete's village are refusing to move out.

On Ardenlea Street in Dalmarnock the tenement row lies empty, neglected and crying out for demolition.

For the past five years Margaret Jaconelli, 50, her husband Jack, 50, and her 15-year-old son, Aarron, have been the only residents of the tenement block. Everyone else has been re-housed as part of the Clyde Gateway Project over five years ago, but Jaconelli refuses to move.

"I feel isolated because we don't have any neighbours. I have become a recluse. I don't even have a postcode any more, the gardens are littered with rubbish and no-one comes to clean it up. It's almost as if we no longer exist."

With the Commonwealth Games approaching, the city council is desperate to demolish the whole street, but Jaconelli says she will stay until she receives the compensation she believes she is due. She says she has so far been offered only an 80% ownership of a house in Cranhill, which she has turned down.

"I just feel like the council are coming in and taking my life away, my house away," she says. "They are not interested in me, I'm just a wee person and they think they can just walk all over me. At the end of the day they can all go back to their homes in the evening, but this is my home, my livelihood, it's all I have got."

Councillor George Redmond says there is an end in sight and that will be in the form of a Compulsory Purchase Order (CPO) on the property: "It is in no-one's interest that Margaret and her family remain there, especially after all this time. I am sympathetic to a point, but this is a larger issue. The local area needs certainty so that the games can take place and Ardenlea Street needs to be demolished. For the greater good of the area someone needs to take it on the chin."

Redmond claims a CPO has been placed on the property, but Jaconelli and her lawyer deny this.

Lawyer, James M Carmichael stated: "No CPO has been served on Margaret and if there was there would need to be time to contest it and to seek adequate compensation. I actually wish they would serve a CPO on the property so I can take it to the Sheriff's Court and we can get the issue finalised and make sure Margaret gets the adequate and rightful compensation that she is due."

Meanwhile, back at her ground-floor flat in the derelict street, Jaconelli is hoping for a solution to be made soon so she can move on with her life.

"We have been in limbo all this time - I am frightened to leave this house unoccupied for more than a few hours. The surrounding empty flats are continually broken into, vandalised and set on fire. We need to move on from here."

As winter approaches, the family is not looking forward to another winter in the flat. "For the past five winters my heating bills have been sky high, I am effectively heating the whole tenement," Jaconelli says, but she remains defiant. "I'm not budging. If the council don't give me the proper compensation that I deserve then I won't be moving anywhere. I will sit right here till 2014 and watch the Commonwealth Games from my window."

11:30pm Saturday 20th September 2008

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