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Culture Secretary Hyslop urged to look into ‘ridiculous’ A listed status of Aberdeen high rises

Virginia Court and Marischal Court have been awarded A listed status
Virginia Court and Marischal Court, Aberdeen

Culture Secretary Fiona Hyslop has been urged to review the decision to list eight Aberdeen high rises by a member of her own government.

Historic Environment Scotland (HES) yesterday announced the multi-storeys would be awarded A listed status due to their “outstanding architectural and historic interest”.

It means the city centre blocks – Gilcomstoun Land, Porthill Court, Seamount Court, Virginia Court, Marischal Court, Thistle Court, Hutcheon Court and Greig Court – have the same importance as the likes of Marischal College and the Music Hall.

SNP Aberdeen Central MSP Kevin Stewart, who also the housing minister, has urged Culture Secretary Fiona Hyslop to think about the residents who have had this imposed upon them.

In a letter he wrote: “Historic Environment Scotland appear to have ignored the fact that people live in these blocks and that the implications of A listed status will be severe in terms of restrictions on remedial and repair work.

“Beyond that, this decision will put at risk future energy efficiency
measures and district heating installations to the blocks.

“I recognise that Historic Environment Scotland are an independent body from the Scottish Government and so I know that your powers are limited in this regard, but I urge you to look into this matter and consider the impact this ridiculous decision will have upon people in Aberdeen who live in the buildings affected.”

Aberdeen Central MSP, Kevin Stewart, outside Aberdeen Art Gallery, a building now with the same A listed status as the eight flat blocks
Aberdeen Central MSP, Kevin Stewart, outside Aberdeen Art Gallery, a building now with the same A listed status as the eight flat blocks

Yesterday, Mr Stewart pushed to HES chief executive Alex Paterson to reconsider what he branded a “ludicrous and appalling” decision.

He also questioned – as city council leaders did – the need to list all eight towers, adding: “Albeit this would cause severe difficulties and hardship to the tenants of that single building, but at least the burden would be lessoned on the thousands of people now impacted.

“This is the exactly the type of issue that the tenants of these eight multi-storey buildings now face because of your decision to award A listed status.”

The heritage quango described the multi-storeys as “some of the finest examples of social housing in Scotland” and said they would be used to help tell the story of how the city emerged from the Second World War.

But the decision was met with cross-party derision, as the Conservative co-leader of Aberdeen City Council also hit out at the effect it would have on residents.

Douglas Lumsden

Councillor Douglas Lumsden accused the government agency of “ignoring” residents, despite a public consultation.

The local authority, which still owns social housing within the 1960s high rises, warned it would hit council coffers and perhaps even impact on safety improvements ordered after the tragic Grenfell Tower fire.

Meanwhile, SNP Aberdeen South MP Stephen Flynn has launched a petition, seeking to have HES reverse the listing decision.

He said: “My inbox is full of people who are rightly outraged at this decision – not least because of the potential financial pressures facing residents.

“It seems clear to me that politicians across the political parties are against this move, the council is against it – and it’s time for the public to make their views clear too.

“This is about what’s best for residents, owners and our city – Historic Environment Scotland must reverse their decision.”

But civil servants said listing only recognised special architectural or historical significance of a site or structure and did not prevent development or alteration.

But last night, the Scottish Government made it clear there would be no intervention.

A spokeswoman said: “Historic Environment Scotland is responsible for designating listed buildings, independent of ministers.”

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