The Siege of Ardenlea Street – the Jaconelli outrage

What can I say that I haven’t already said or which has already been said better by others, e.g. Mike Dailly, the Jaconelli’s lawyer? Trying to cut through my impotent fury at what has been done to this archetypal Glasgow family, I will try ..

First, the essential facts –

Margaret lived in 10 Ardenlea Street, Dalmarnock since she was a teenage bride, 35 years ago in 1976. She and her husband Jack – a builder – struggled to buy their house, a solid, well-appointed flat in a red sandstone building. (It almost exactly matches the flat in Agamemnon Street, Dalmuir where I spent the first nine years of my married life, a wonderful home.)

The Jaconellis owned their home outright, but in common with their friends and neighbours, sold it to Bridgeton and Dalmarnock and Housing Association in 1981, with a right to buy it back within 10 years. They did so in 1998 at the favourable price of £30,000, based on a 1990 valuation.

Just after the millennium, owners and tenants in Dalmarnock began to come under pressure in relation to the Glasgow East Regeneration project, and were gradually forced out, one way or another by Glasgow City Council who announced their intention in 2001/2002 to pull the housing down.

A vital point – developers had begun to purchase property and vacant lots in Dalmarnock, some well before the regeneration project was announced – make what you will of that fact, and whether it was prescience or inside information.

In 2006, having effectively deliberately blighted the area – planning blight – Labour-controlled Glasgow City Council acted, with compulsory purchase orders for homes and businesses and for vacant plots of land owned by developers.

They offered Margaret Jaconelli and her family £30,000 for their home – a figure equivalent to the 1990 valuation and 1998 purchase price, a figure that could not possibly have bought comparable accommodation in another area (Dalmarnock had effectively been destroyed), never mind paid for the legal, removal and associated costs of purchase.

Margaret and her husband had no choice but to reject the offer and attempt to negotiate a fair price and compensation for the disruption to their lives, hoping that a fundamental principle of justice would be observed, namely that someone affected by a decision such as this should not suffer loss, and, insofar as is humanly possible, should be able to restore the situation to what it was before it was made.

To have accepted the £30,000 offer would have destroyed them economically and emotionally, since they could not possibly have bought anything comparable in an area of their choice with that money. (It goes without saying that the Jaconellis were not seeking to buy in the leafy West End of Glasgow among the young media professionals, nor in Bearsden, or Newton Mearns or other affluent and expensive suburbs where the professional classes and politicians who were gearing up to destroy their lives lived. They want to find a tight-knit working class community of the kind that Ardenlea Street and Dalmarnock had once been for them.)

But Glasgow City Council, for almost six long years refused to negotiate, reiterating their £30,000 valuation and demanding that the Jaconellis move out. During this period, every other owner and tenant was forced out of the Ardenlea Street block, and the flats were boarded up. But not the flat above the Jaconellis, where the windows were removed and a grill placed over them, leaving what was effectively the Jaconelli’s roof open to the elements, causing their heating bills to rocket.

Only in late 2010, after over five years, did GCC make a radically improved offer, which I understood to be £85,000. However, Mike Dailly, the Jaconelli’s lawyer stated today on his blog that the only legal offer was £71,000, and I must defer to Mike’s superior knowledge of the facts.

In 2011, faced with court actions, GCC made a verbal offer of £90,000, never yet formalised in writing – an offer that the Jaconelli’s would have accepted in 2006, but which now, in the light of changes in the property market and because of the legal and related costs they had incurred in their six year fight, would not have left nearly enough to find and purchase an equivalent property.

Glasgow City Council, through its PR machine and grapevine, has effectively sold a distorted picture of the Jaconellis to an either lazy or compliant Glasgow Press and media, who published uncritically and with apparently no fact checking or attempt to get the Jaconelli’s story directly.

The factoids (things that, as Norman Mailer once said, everybody knows are true – except they ain’t) included –

that permanent alternative accommodation was offered. It wasn’t – temporary rented accommodation at around £400 a month was offered to property owners – the Jaconellis – who paid no rent on their own home.

The offer of accommodation had been bracketed with the improved purchase offer – it wasn’t.

That the Jaconellis were demanding a figure of £360,000 in settlement. This one requires more explanation, but there are potential legal hazards to me in trying to explain it. Suffice it to say that a misunderstanding arose between the Jaconellis and their previous lawyer over a figure that was only designed to illustrate the gross disparity between the derisory sum offered to the Jaconellis and the astronomical profits made by a developer of an adjacent plot, who reaped a profit of £5.5 million on a £45k investment from GCC – the Sun’s ‘£3.5 million pound Gran’ story.

Margaret Jaconelli officially requested mediation on the dispute this year, a request refused by GCC, a fact known to the Court. In the last week, the Scottish Government twice offered to act as mediator between the Jaconellis, and were twice refused. Later, Glasgow City Council, faced with the reality of what an eviction of this vulnerable family, now barricaded into their flat, would mean, delivered an ultimatum – vacate immediately and we will mediate. The Jaconellis refused.

Mediation – or ADR (Alternative Dispute Resolution) is an accepted technique in resolving bitter disputes where the law is failing. Mediation is not, I emphasis not arbitration. No decision or view is espoused by the mediator – he or she simply attempts to get the parties to reach agreement by acting as analyst, facilitator and honest broker. GCC had nothing to fear from this process, and had they been willing to enter into it, a deal would have been reached on a figure well removed from the nonsense they have spread about extravagant demands from the Jaconellis.

On Thursday, they preferred to send 80 policemen and women and some 20 riot vans on a dawn raid, dispersing the small band of Jaconelli supporters and barricading the street, then breaking down the doors of 10 Ardenlea Street. The Jaconellis are now homeless, and a gross injustice, fully supported by the law and Glasgow City Council has been perpetrated, leaving a stain on the Commonwealth Games and the City of Glasgow.

The Jaconelli’s case has been referred to the International Court of Human Rights at Strasbourg, a process that can take years. Margaret Jaconelli, just before the final assault on her home, took the decision to run as an independent candidate for the Scottish Parliament, raising the deposit in hours form friends and sympathisers. No one should doubt the determination and steely resolve of this remarkable woman, the epitome of the Glasgow working class spirit, to fight for her rights.

More at Commonwealth Games Monitor here.

Comments (22)

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  1. John Souter says:

    Even in a democracy blighted by hegemonic bureaucracy the bullying actions of Glasgow Council is a disgrace.

    I hope the Jaconelli’s win in the ECHR and their spirit for justice is amply rewarded.

    In the meantime they should claim squatters rights and take up residence in the town hall. In all probability it would give the hall a greater legitimacy of purpose than its had for a long time.

    1. stewart maxwell says:

      get up stand up ,, for ure rights ,, baltic always respects u mj,, jj,, for what use done ,, and i hope many more take ure lead ,, fight to the end as always,,,give them what they , want , gcc..scumbags ,, tweet tweet,baltic fleet,, fight to the end..xrespect to use ,,x

  2. Bob Smith says:

    What else do you expect in a country run “For the rich, by the rich and for nobody else
    but the rich”

  3. Bob Smith says:

    The working class in the UK have no chance when it comes up against bureaucracy.
    We live under a system where the rules are made up by the rich and powerful
    and the rich and powerful would not take kindly to anyone challenging their rules. By powerful I include every council throughout the land who have the clout of big business[the rich] twisting their arms.
    I wish Margaret Jaconelli every success in standing for a seat in parliament

  4. Ray Bell says:

    When I first heard about this, I thought it would be some 1960s Jerry built tenement… but when I saw it on the TV it was a pretty solid looking red sandstone job, typical of Glasgow. It looked like the kind of building that would look braw after a wee bit of renovation… it just makes me wonder why Glasgow would want to knock down yet more of their architectural heritage, having destroyed many of the best bits already.

  5. Observer says:

    Dalmarnock was a clearance area. It wasn’t cleared for the Commonwealth Games, it was cleared because the housing did not meet Scottish standards & it wasn’t economic to refurbish it. There was no demand for it, & so a decision was taken to clear it a long time ago – a decision which was made in relation to a lot of other areas in Glasgow as well. Walk around Glasgow & you will see numerous sites where poor quality tenement & multi story housing has been demolished, with new build or refurbished housing being made available to people who were living in the demolished properties.

    Is that a bad thing?

    What is it that Mrs Jaconelli wanted? To remain in her home? She was the last person in the close, everyone else having been rehoused – to better accommodation.

    For a lot of families who have been through the same process – being cleared out of run down & unlettable flats (& Dalmarnock was unlettable, social landlords couldn’t give the houses away) it will look as if Mrs Jaconelli was after one thing – money.

    I am quite convinced that there has been some very unethical practise from GCC in relation to developers being tipped off about potential profits being made from land in the area. I would say that is the scandal that needs to be exposed.

    However I don’t see a scandal in relation to what should have been a fairly straightforward clearance, a process that has been replicated all over Glasgow, as poor & unlettable housing has been demolished, & new build or refurbished housing has taken its place.

    This is only a story because the land released by the clearance is gong to be used for the Commonwealth Games. If Mrs Jaconelli had been living in Ruchill, or Possil, in Govan or Yoker, then this wouldn’t be headline news. People are conflating two issues, the legitimate concern over ”insider” information being made available to developers, & a story about a woman who appears to have been wanting to screw as much money out of the Council as she possibly could.

    1. You appear to have read little and understood even less of what has been written about this dispute, but to have swallowed whole Glasgow City Council’s media spin and distortion. Assuming you are not a shill for Glasgow Labour’s PR machine, perhaps this will help you to revisit the facts –

      Margaret Jaconelli and her family fully support Glasgow East regeneration and the Commonwealth Games and have always been willing to move, as have the other families and businesses caught up in this. The Jaconellis are owner occupiers, not tenants – they owned their property free and clear, and it represents their only capital from 35 years of hard work and enterprise.

      Far from being greedy, they only ever wanted to receive a figure in total compensation for the loss of their home that would permit them to buy an equivalent property in another neighbourhood, and have their legal and other costs of moving met.

      No offer they were made came anywhere close to meeting this simple, equitable aspiration, either in 2006, when they were offered £30k or the belated and as yet unformalised offer of £90,000, made verbally over the phone at the last moment. In fact, the only formal offer made, according to Mike Dailly, the Jaconelli’s lawyer, was £71,000

      An offer of £90,000 might well have seemed equitable to the Jaconellis in 2006. In 2011, after six years of legal costs, and grossly excessive heating bills caused by the calculated actions of GCC in leaving the flat above them open to the elements were met, the Jaconellis would not have been able to buy any comparable property with the balance, and their economic base, built up painfully over 35 years would have been destroyed. They are not alone in this plight – other lives and businesses have also been destroyed, but the Jaconellis decided to fight.

      The only ‘rehousing’ offered to them was temporary rented accommodation at approx. £400 per month. Even the permanent offer of a rented council house (none was made) would have been unacceptable to owner occupiers, and no owner/occupier that I know would deem such a thing acceptable. Had GCC decided to gift outright to the Jaconellis one of the new properties being built on the site, they would have accepted.

      The issue of the gross disparity between the astronomical settlements made with property developers by GCC for doing nothing more than buying derelict vacant land, holding it and re-selling, far from being ‘conflated’ with the Ardenlea question, is central to it – and it won’t go away. believe me. More than one investigative high-level journalist team is more than interested in just what went on in Dalmarnock.

      As for you, observer – I don’t know what your background, occupation, housing or income bracket is, but your superficial, inaccurate and utterly unfeeling comment reflects no credit on you.

      You are right about one thing, however. Had this happened to a family living in Ruchill, or Possil, in Govan or Yoker, then this wouldn’t be headline news – the families concerned would have been buried quietly with their hopes and dreams, with nothing being reported by the media.

      1. Ray Bell says:

        Thanks for the further information Peter, which is very interesting.

        Someone once said to me that Glasgow could have been to Victorian architecture what Edinburgh is to the Georgian. But the fact of the matter is that Glasgow council bulldozed its way through dozens of Victorian buildings replacing them with concrete blocks, fly-overs, motorways and underpasses.

        I have seen such old building renovated elsewhere. In the former east Germany, old slum areas in Dresden, Berlin and Leipzig have been done up, given lifts and improved. We don’t seem to be able to do that here… despite the fact that the old buildings are more attractive than just about anything that’s gone up since the 1960s.

    2. Rae says:

      A good article by Peter Curran, but just wanted to add some more information on the reasons for demolition, which were not because the housing was sub standard, as suggested by Observer.

      The decision to demolish was taken by Scottish Homes during 1999. Scottish Homes had decided to transfer BDHA houses to another housing association. SH appointed consultants to consider options and so Hilland Ritchie produced their report in July 1999, which did NOT recommend demolition. In fact they cautioned against this. There were many empty properties in Dalmarnock but this was mainly due to perceptions of anti-social behaviour etc in the area.

      The decision to demolish caused a lot of local opposition. Scottish Homes came up with an extra £3M or so to build some new houses.

      The flats had been upgraded in the late 70’s early 80’s and were generally in good condition. BDHA was actively marketing some of the flats for sale. When clearance began, the flat I had to leave was in better structural condition than the flat I bought and moved to.

      Architecture and Design Scotland even recently commented that it would have been desirable to retain these buildings.

      It should also be pointed out that the Jaconelli’s had spent quite a bit on their flat and had a proper valuation been carried out, the value should have reflected this.

  6. Peter Curran says:

    Thanks for that, Rae – it was information I wanted but did not have until now. Appreciated!

    If Bella permits, I written a little, and probably bad, verse on Glasgow and Ardenlea Street – here it is –

    Mungo came to a dear, green place
    where Fergus chose to die
    He built a church near a sylvan stream
    where Fergus chose to lie

    The Molendinar ran beneath
    the hard grey rock above
    And a great cathedral – stone by stone –
    was built by men, with love

    And from this place, a city grew
    from the grove of the Lady Well
    Some say that Wallace was betrayed
    by men in this leafy dell

    A child of the East, I knew this place
    I played in light and dark
    in the waters foul that the stream became
    below the old fir park

    The City now – a giant place
    A second war has come
    with death and devastation, yet
    a spark of hope for some

    In the East end of the City
    In tenements dark and grey
    lived a great, resilient people
    And they live there to this day

    But the wealth and power shifted
    to the centre, west and south
    and the great betrayal started
    from the People’s Party’s mouth

    So these ordinary people
    must be broken on the wheel
    And the things that they most value
    must be ground beneath the heel

    Of politicians venal
    and the men that fund their greed
    And while the riches flow to some
    The Glesca people bleed

    Among this devastation
    A woman held her ground
    She tried to fight for all she loved
    in the wasteland all around

    The brutal heart of power
    to its eternal shame
    has used the force that it commands
    to play its dirty game

    The men who fund their party
    are on the inside track
    and they become obscenely rich because
    the poor are on the rack

    And all the rich Glaswegians
    believe the Council’s claims
    They’re dazzled by the PR spin
    and the promise of great Games

    But back in Ardenlea Street
    the doors are battered in
    Unequal force has forced them out
    The Party has to win

    Now, for the Jaconellis,
    a life begins anew
    They’re out, but not defeated
    Although a great wind blew

    And there are those among us
    Who’ll never let this rest
    A great injustice has been done
    and now begins a quest …

    To find the truth for Glasgow
    and bring a cleansing rain
    Then Mungo’s spirit may return
    to Glaschu once again

  7. Observer says:

    You haven’t published the other posts that I made on your blog, so I will ask the questions here.

    You seem to be looking at this case in isolation. I don’t see how that is realistically possible.

    As we know Dalmarnock is not the only area where properties have been demolished as part of the regeneration process. There have been scores of them completed over the past two decades, affecting probably thousands of households, some of which would be owners. None of these owners have been gifted with a new build house for nothing, & neither have they been given financial compensation at huge variance with the market value of their homes.

    The Guardian reported that the Jaconellis had been made multiple offers of rehousing by local Associations, & that in fact the Council had an offer of housing available to them at the time the court issued the decree. As the Council has no housing stock of its own that indicates that they have been active in ensuring that the Jaconellis avoided homelessness, indeed I very much doubt that the decree would have been given by the court if that was not the case.

    You have not explained what is exceptional about the Jaconelli case which necessitates their being given favourable treatment over & above that which other owners in clearance areas have experienced.

    The issue here for me is one of fairness. The Council has a policy in relation to how it treats people in areas which are scheduled for demolition, & as far as I can see they have followed that policy in this case.

    You may say the policy is unfair, but I say that it is neither fair nor realistic to offer every owner affected by demolition a brand new house for nothing or financial compensation very much at variance with the market value of the house being demolished. That would be unaffordable, which is why no Council that I know of makes such generous offers in such cases. I also presume that is why no political party is backing the Jaconellis as they know that if they were made the settlement you are advocating, everyone in a similar situation would have to receive a similar settlement too. Backdated perhaps.

    You are very good at calling people names & implying that they are shills who are doing the work of Glasgow City Council. However I think I have asked a reasonable question. What is it about the Jaconelli case which means that they should be offered a settlement vastly in excess of what other people in their situation have been offered, & accepted.

    As far as the decision to clear Dalmarnock is concerned, I was of the understanding that there were some problems with the buildings, as well as low demand. However there was more than one landlord in the area so perhaps I got that bit wrong. However a strategic decision was taken to demolish, & that decision was taken before the Commonwealth Games had been secured. So the demolition would have happened anyway.

    Most people affected by clearances end up with houses that are much better than the houses they left, so they are not victims. It is obviously not as easy for owners as it is for tenants, but that is the risk you take when you buy a house. The value & indeed the long term future of your house can go down instead of up. I am not without sympathy for the Jaconellis, who wouldn’t be, but what they are asking for does not seem reasonable to me. That doesn’t make me a shill.

  8. Peter Curran says:

    Hi, observer – or may I call you Michael. Best find a new pseudonym – this one is blown. I have nothing to say to you that I haven’t said on my last blog, except maybe that Glasgow can be miles better than this …

  9. hamish kirk says:

    To see Stalinsim at its worst just look at local authorities in the West of Scotland ! I would sooner have business dealings with the Ducke of Buccleuch and the other feudalists than with these vile hacks !

  10. Ewan Mc says:

    This sound description of the Jaconelli case illustrates the profound disregard GCC has for some of its residents. However, confining this to a single legal case which the media predomiantly focuses on, misses the wider politics going on.

    There are many other Compulsory Purchase Order examples where councils are intimidating owner-occupiers to make way for property development. This has happed with regeneration in Birmingham, fortunately Mr Fred Grove was able to stay put, after a long battle, and in Manchester, Liverpool and London where homes have been knocked down.

    Of course the looming example presently is with the Trump development where residents are being threatened with their local council considering Compulsory Purchase Orders. It is one rule for Trump and a different for everyone else.
    The Scottish Government is presently reviewing Copmpulsory Purhase legislation and has published a consulation paper. The RICS of course and big property are keen to push new rules through to make the clearance of existing residents from regenaration areas at the expense of sickening profit. The One Scotland slogan on the front of this document is complete hypocrisy!

    WE NEED LAND JUSTICE!

  11. Ewan Mc says:

    The sheer incompetency and cruelty of the Labour run Glasgow City Council is well documented here (no great surprise) However perhaps it is worth quoting John Swinney’s foreword to the Compulsory Purchase consultation paper.

    ‘Despite the potential value of compulsory purhase, many stakeholders from across the public, private and third sector have been telling the Scottish Government that there are concerns that make compulsory purchase less effective than it could be.’

    No mention of private citizens here! Those unlucky enough to live in a regeneration area. The stakeholders are the middle-class professionals living in the leafy suburbs.

    Perhaps one should also note the firm of architects engaged after Mrs Jaconelli’s home has been flattened. Check http://www.guardian.co.uk/business/2010/jan/16/fred-goodwin-rbs-scotland-architecture

    Yes you’ve guessed, the banker we are n’t allowed to identify.

    No the SNP have not just stood idly by here, they have been actively complicit in intimidating the Jaconelli family by instigating CPO, thus this cruel eviction ensued.

    An eviction Patrick Sellars would have been proud of, can it be possible in modern-day Scotland?

    Leftie Nats need to smell the coffee here. I am off to vote elsewhere this time

  12. Susan Reid says:

    What about what is happening in Deans South Livingston? For the past 6 years West Lothian Council have been trying to steal homeowners properties from them, and making their estate unattractive and run down. West Lothian Council recently tried to get a CPO, thereatening the owners that they would only get 11,000 – fortunately after a public enquiry the CPO was denied but what now? the owners remain in limbo living in blighted properties in an almost derelict estate.

  13. David MacGille-Mhuire says:

    Who is this Michael Best aka Observer (an interesting choice of moniker)?

    Does he have any relationship to GCC he has not declared? From the tenor of his comments – PR-ese

    1. Peter Curran says:

      If you decode my reply to his last post to me, you will know. By their prose style and repetitive phrases shall ye know them …

  14. David MacGille-Mhuire says:

    … it might appear so (apologies if this is not the case).

  15. Anon says:

    Eh…..
    Here’s some basic facts –
    1….5K heating bills a year? – Where did they get £416 a month for electricity from? If Mrs Jaconelli wasnt working?
    2…..Where did they pay for anything else if Mr Jaconelli wasnt working towards the end?
    3…..The flats were on sale in 2003 for around £11,000 – other residents jumped at the chance of £30,000!
    4…..Equivilant and BETTER properties on Zoopla exisit in todays market from £20k, £27k, £30k, £40k, £50k, £60-£90k!!! In nice or equivilant areas. WHICH MEANS THEY COULD BUY ANOTHER PROPERTY. – oh and yeah they were offered up to £90k – so why couldnt they buy something else?
    5…..With so much family and friends – someone could have moved thier belongings to new property for free.
    6…..ANY new property would have been better decorated, as thier house (apart from the livingroom) was in some state of disrepair) – why wouldnt they want an upgrade?
    7…..They were offered at one point a 5bed flat in the west end….amoung other properties in various areas.
    8…..8 years all the other tennents in the properties moved out before them.
    9…..They were holding out for £360k!
    10….So where did they get £416 a month for electricity from, if they were so hard done by?

  16. Peter Campbell says:

    I am having a similar problem with a RSL in Greenock…they are trying to force me out of my flat and offering to pay 45% of the original purchase price leaving me £10k in debt. There needs to be greater protection for homeowners in this country people who have and are paying into the system are being treated with utter contempt.

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