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Security at Aberdeen’s historic properties must be ‘paramount’ following tragic Victoria Road School blaze

The head of an Aberdeen conservation project has urged Aberdeen City Council to make security “paramount” at its derelict properties, following a devastating fire at a historic school.

Gavin Esslemont, chairman of the Save Westburn House Action Group, has appealed for the local authority to do all it can to prevent similar conflagrations after a major blaze at Victoria Road School on Friday resulted in part of its roof collapsing.

Mr Esslemont and his organisation has been seeking to resurrect the A-listed park property as a tea room and community facility, but fears other sites such as Westburn House could meet similar fates if the council does not do more to look after the Granite City’s heritage.

He said: “Ultimately, if you are the owner of a building, you need to maintain it, and you do need to keep it secure and safe for the public’s interest.

“Westburn House is maybe different from Victoria Road School because the interior is pretty degraded to be honest – the floors are gone, the roof has partially caved in and taken many of the floors with it.

“But any building that’s disused and certainly in the middle of a park where there aren’t a lot of people at night is at risk of fires, so you can never rule it out.

“It’s something we’re acutely aware of now, after Friday’s events.

“Security should be paramount, and the council should be spending money on making sure buildings are secure, whether that’s more fencing, locks, or having security cameras on the buildings.”

He added:  “I think some people already think these buildings should be flattened to make way for more modern architecture.

“But I think we should be doing whatever we can to save these granite buildings, which are part of Aberdeen’s heritage.

“Bad things will and do happen to buildings, but you can try and limit the damage when they do. Security and safety are paramount to try and make sure it doesn’t happen.”

A spokesman for the city council said: “We undertake a review of each property asset when it becomes vacant, and appropriate measures are put in place to secure and monitor the property in line with advice from our insurance company, and when appropriate, police and fire services.

“Over time, these measures are reviewed and updated.”

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