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Torry Raac crisis forcing mum and kids out of ‘dream home’ they waited six years for

Families living in Balnagask have spoken of their frustration and anger as they wait for Aberdeen City Council to offer them alternative housing.

Aberdeen City Council tenants Hayley Urquhart and Marie Edwards. Image: Kirstie Topp/DC Thomson
Aberdeen City Council tenants Hayley Urquhart and Marie Edwards. Image: Kirstie Topp/DC Thomson

Single mum Marie Edwards and her four children thought all of their “dreams came true” when they were given their Torry home – but three years on it has turned into a nightmare.

The young family previously lived in one of the Seaton high rises and had to wait six years for their Balnagask property.

“We came from a flat on the 12th floor to a three-bed house with a small garden, it was a huge change and it was like all of our dreams came true,” she explained.

“It might seem like nothing but that is our dream house.”

Torry residents took their Raac protest to Marischal College this week. Image: Kirstie Topp/DC Thomson

But Marie and her children live in one of the almost 500 properties affected by the “crumbly” Raac concrete that has prompted a clear-out of the community.

Marie was one of a handful of protesters who gathered outside Marischal College to protest against the situation this week.

A mix of both private owners and council tenants brandished posters reading ‘Stop the Raac, don’t let it crack’ and ‘Our right, our homes, our fight’.

The determined residents didn’t even let a brief scattering of hailstones stop them from making their voices heard as they chanted various slogans.

Torry residents ‘willing to stand by each other’ through raac crisis

Aberdeen City Council is currently offering alternative accommodation to its tenants affected by the potentially dangerous material.

Some residents have accepted the first offer given to them and have already moved out of the area.

However Marie isn’t so lucky.

The anxious mum has been left in the lurch for a month without any updates from council officers, and is still awaiting her first offer.

“Quite a lot of us, especially the council tenants, would like to have our own homes back at the end of this, even if we were dispersed temporarily,” she explained.

“At least then we would know that we were coming back to what we actually want at the end… None of us had intentions of moving.”

Raac has been found in properties on Balnagask Road. Image: Kami Thomson/DC Thomson

Marie admitted she loves the “community within a community” in Balnagask, and said its residents look out for one another.

She views her neighbours as her “support system” as they lend a hand with childcare and even nip out for shopping if anyone gets hit with sickness bugs.

“Private owners and council tenants are all willing to stand by each other and try to get the best outcome,” Marie said.

“We all want to help each other get what we all want at the end of the day.”

Family living in ‘turmoil’ over uncertainty

Marie revealed that the council has told its tenants to pack up their belongings, meaning many are currently living day-to-day out of boxes.

Torry Raac: Aberdeen City Council is taking action after an engineer report on the crumbly concrete in around 500 homes. Image: Kami Thomson/DC Thomson
The crumbly concrete has been found in around 500 homes. Image: Kami Thomson/DC Thomson

“With four children it’s a complete nightmare but we don’t have a moving date,” she explained.

“It was a shock to the system to begin with but there’s so much uncertainty, it’s turmoil.”

Children left not knowing which school they will go to

Hayley Urquhart had her consultation meeting with a housing officer six weeks ago and is still to receive her first offer too.

Her daughter is starting academy after the summer but doesn’t know what school she will be attending.

The single mum told us that normally she is “well prepared” in buying school clothes for her children.

Aberdeen City Council co-leader Christian Allard spoke to concerned Torry residents ahead of the meeting on Wednesday. Image: Kirstie Topp/DC Thomson

But now she is stuck as she doesn’t know which uniform she will need to get.

“When I contact the council it’s always ‘I don’t know’ or ‘there’s not an offer’,” Hayley sighed.

“That’s not good enough for me.”

A frustrated Hayley also claims the local authority hasn’t taken residents’ mental health into consideration throughout the process.

“They’ve not listened and not supported us,” she told us.

Fears Torry will be ‘forgotten’

Another Torry resident, Michelle, said everyone wanted “transparency and the truth” from Aberdeen City Council.

The angry tenant told the Press and Journal that she has lived in Balnagask for 30 years and doesn’t want to move.

She also said that many feel they are being “forced” out of their homes.

The ‘crumbly’ Raac material has been found in the Balnagask homes, also known as hen houses. Image: Kami Thomson/DC Thomson

“We just want them to fix the problem, we’ve all got a lot to lose,” Michelle explained.

“I’m in my 50s, I don’t want to have to start again. I should be enjoying my life not worrying about where I’m going to go and what I’m going to do.

“We’re not being unreasonable, we are willing to work with the council as long as they work with us to take our feelings into account.

“There’s some people here struggling and worrying.”

Tenants in Torry council homes with Raac in their roofs are to be moved out "as soon as possible". Image: Alastair Gossip/DC Thomson
No other council homes are affected by Raac in Aberdeen. Image: Alastair Gossip/DC Thomson

Michelle raised the point that while council tenants don’t own their homes, they have spent a considerable amount of money on their properties over the years.

“They are saying ‘we’ll give you like-for-like’ but no, they are just going to put us where they’ve got properties and that’s not fair.

“We’re never going to get the lovely houses that we’ve got.”

She also feared the mass evictions in Balnagask would have a detrimental impact on the wider area.

“Those poor people who are left, they’ll have nothing.

Torry will be what it was before, forgotten.”

‘This roof should have fallen in ten years ago’

Meanwhile one disgruntled retired couple, who wish to remain anonymous, have lived in their council property for more than 30 years.

While the pensioners have asked to stay in Torry, they haven’t heard anything from the council yet.

But they are adamant they won’t put up with any old offer.

One of the tenants said: “If I move, I’m not going to accept what they throw at me.

“If I’m moving it will be on my terms, not the council’s.”

Passionate Torry Raac protesters chanted slogans including “Stop the Raac, don’t let it crack” outside Marischal College. Image: Kirstie Topp/DC Thomson

They also questioned the severity of the Raac issue and claimed they have never had any problems with their home.

“These houses have been up for more than 40 years.

“We’ve been through six severe gales in the last eight months, the house and the roof is still here.

“They said Raac lasts for 30 years maximum, if that’s the case this roof should have fallen in ten years ago.”

‘Everything is in limbo’

While the couple admitted they felt sorry for private owners struggling with the Raac crisis, they themselves feel stuck and are unsure what will come next.

Some of the Balnagask homes affected by Raac. Image: Alastair Gossip/DC Thomson

They explained: “We’ll have to wait and see what will happen but the point is that everything is in limbo, we don’t know whether to start packing things.

“We’ve collected a lot of stuff, what are we going to with it if they put us into a two-bedroom small flat?

“We wouldn’t be able to have a shed and be able to go out in the garden in the summertime.”

What does Aberdeen City Council have to say?

A spokesman said the local authority was “committed” to engage with all council tenants, owners and private tenants who have been affected by Raac.

“Following home visits where relevant information is gathered to get a clear understanding of household needs, tenants will be made two priority offers in the first instance,” he explained.

“Following this discussion, the tenant will then be given a final offer of accommodation.

“Housing and Support Officers will continue to support each of their tenants throughout the whole process of moving to their new home.”

Evening Express coverage of the Raac crisis as it was revealed 500 homes were affected. Image: Clarke Cooper/DC Thomson

Aberdeen City Council has a list of frequently asked questions online for those who wish to learn more about the situation.

Meanwhile, councillors have called for the chief executive Angela Scott to write to the Scottish Government asking it to reconsider its decision not to offer financial support to deal with the crisis.

They also want to see the council be added to the Raac Cross Sector Working Group due to the large number of affected properties in the city.

Members of the communities, housing and public protection committee will discuss the proposal next month.