Vennel buildings spark local debate

Linlithgow's Vennel buildings prompted debate at the latest meeting of the town's Local Area Committee.
Linlithgow's Vennel buildings prompted debate at the latest meeting of the town's Local Area Committee.

Linlithgow’s Vennel buildings  are either a cutting-edge rethink on living in towns or an eyesore, according to views at the recent meeting of the town’s Local Area Committee.

Local SNP councillor David Tait questioned the validity of the council spending “vast sums” on the  1960s buildings.

He suggested the council would need to spend   £400,000 plus  on “a tired old building which is beyond its planned lifetime.”

His comments came on the back of a council report which described the buildings as in “fair condition for their age”. Substantial refurbishment of the roof and windows  in 2004 means no major repairs are  expected for at least 15 years.

Robert Smith, a housing investment officer with the council,  described a survey which identified ongoing maintenance works for 1-29 The Vennel and 1-9 The Cross. Tenders for which are expected to be issued soon. Weak points on the roof are around down pipes and with windows mainly around failing mechanisms.

Mr Smith said in his report: “It exhibits only minor defects, which can be dealt with by regular planned maintenance, and whose cause could be attributed to a number of contributing factors, including water ingress, frost damage and incorrect sealing.”  

It was pointed out that costs were more likely to be around £200,000 than £400,000

Councillor Tait questioned the survey because tenants,  both householders and stores, had not been interviewed about water ingress which, he claimed, continued to be a problem for shopkeepers. Mr Smith  said that water ingress in the shops had been identified as coming  from a decked area rather than the roof.

Councillor Tait questioned a programme of ongoing repairs instead of redevelopment. “How can we be sure that what we do now will be any more successful than before? It doesn’t make a lot of sense,” he added.

The Vennel was redeveloped  with a mixture of flats and shops 50 years ago when the ancient street pattern was demolished. The development won the Saltire Housing Award in 1969. 

At the meeting, Graeme Struthers, head of  support services, said there was no time frame  of plans for the redevelopment of The Vennel adding: “This is planned maintenance. We have to maintain the fabric of our buildings. ”

Committee chairman Councillor Tom Conn said “We are talking about spending thousands. A redevelopment  could potentially cost millions.”