Challenge to our forgotten homes
Three little girls lark happily in a muddy pool, oblivious they’re making a right mess of their clothes, writes Stephen Houston.
Around them are four- feet high weeds and smashed up wooden plinths that used to be smart - looking seating areas.
There’s ingrained rubbish everywhere. This is 2017 and this is deep within the vast Dalmilling estate in Ayr.
Gung- ho local Tory councillor Ian Davis said: “This place screams neglect wherever you look.
“It looks as if it has been left to degrade, cast aside by the council. And it is not right. These are the forgotten lands of this council.”
We are in the back courts of the Oakwood Avenue flats and some of the decent tenants are despairing.
Allison Kriisa, 33, has lived here for 14 years, ever since the council last did a major overhaul of the flats. The mum- of- one is among the few “original” tenants since the refurbishment to remain.
She said: “I used to have flowers out the back. But everything gets messed up.
“I am on my 17th whirly- gig in 14 years as the kids keep breaking them. And nobody ever puts washing out on lines because the children will cut them down.”
She laments the breakdown of the community, where once she would sit out the back with her baby daughter in the splendid surroundings.
Her own patch of garden is filled with weeds as she cannot hold a spade or strimmer because of carpal tunnel surgery. She said: “There is no sense of community in these flats any more.
“The majority of people around here are good and I have been brought up in so- called deprived areas all my life. I had a brilliant childhood in Lochside.
“I have asked the council to help me with my garden, wrote several times, and they won’t do anything. “It is all a right mess.” Closes are a mess, security doors can be accessed and windows on the communal stairs are wide open.
A sweet stench of cannabis emanates from some of them. Councillor Davis is on a crusade to make things better.
He is a council tenant himself, in a four- in- a- block in Heathfield.
He asks: “Would the councillors themselves be happy to live in these conditions?
“I don’t think councillors or these tenants should have to.
“Places like this feel forgotten and abandoned.
“I have reported the household rubbish piled up in Oakwood gardens and nothing has been done. If a councillor cannot achieve this, then a tenant certainly cannot.”
Dalmilling has a population of 2700 and most of the remaining council properties are fine.
The councillor reckons it is the communal flats across Ayr where there are problems.
He said: “If people pay the rent then everyone should expect the same service.
“Oakwood is not the only place where there is such a problem. North and South Wallacetoun, Russell Drive, Strathayr Place and off John Street.
“Nobody wants to say these places are forgotten. But I think they have been.”
As we left via Westwood Avenue, a sign of some hope.
A solitary hi- vis- vested council employee was in the street with his litter- picker, ensuring every small piece was lifted.
David Burns, head of South Ayrshire Council housing, takes concerns seriously.
He said: “We will always work with our tenants to tackle any issues and ensure they feel supported and listened to.
“Following a complaint, a housing officer visited Oakwood Avenue and has arranged for a number of bulky waste items to be removed as quickly as possible.
“A caretaker service already operates in the area, communal areas are cleaned and staff remove litter on a regular basis.
“In conjunction with residents, the council have also previously undertaken clean- up days, removing large waste items and reminding tenants of their responsibilities to dispose of their waste correctly.”