Scaffolding Scare Mongering?

Scaffolding Scare Mongering?

06th August 2014

We’re all used to seeing scaffolding towers around buildings in towns and cities across the UK.  These structures are often used to provide access for teams of workers cleaning the stone work on buildings in High Streets and city centres as local authorities attempt to rejuvenate urban areas to bring them up to date for 21st Century shoppers.  Indeed, many historic, listed, or just interesting edifices benefit greatly from having their facades brought back to life, showcasing the intricate details that made these buildings such grand additions in the first place.  Other buildings will be covered in scaffolding as vital repairs are carried out to the facades which will preserve the buildings and prolong their usefulness.

While we’re all probably happy to put up with the scaffolding being a bit of an eyesore while this important work is carried out, scaffolding in residential areas seems to be causing some problems here in the UK.  Residents in a block of flats in Thorn Brae in Scotland have turned to the Paisley Daily Express to express their displeasure with scaffolding that has covered their homes for several months.  It seems that Renfrewshire Council hired contractors to install cavity wall insulation in the structure before realising that there was no cavity to fill!  A building warrant needs to be applied for and granted before more complicated insulation work can be carried out.  In the meantime, the scaffolding has been left in place since May and residents are now complaining that it makes the garden area at the back of the flats a no-go area, leaving local children with nowhere to play over the long summer holidays.

Meanwhile, further south in Islington, London, a helpline has been set up for people whose homes have been “blighted by long-term, unused scaffolding”.  Housing campaigner, Thomas Cooper, set up the Idle Scaffolding Helpline as a “tongue in cheek service” after noticing scaffolding in several local streets that was not being used.  Apparently there are 120 scaffolding structures across the borough of Islington but the local authority only has enough workers to use maybe 20 of them.  Mr. Cooper reveals his belief that the scaffolding is erected in order to make people think that work is being done and by the time it is dismantled, people are so relieved to see it gone that they no longer care whether the work is shoddy or even whether it’s been done at all.  Many local residents are of the opinion that the erected scaffolding is being stored in these places.
Islington’s street properties are managed by Partners for Improvement in Islington (PfI) which manages 4,500 tenant homes and 2,000 leasehold properties on behalf of the London Borough of Islington.  The organization is responsible for repairs, major improvement works and tenancy and leasehold management.  PfI has been investigated by Stuart Hodkinson (sponsored by the Economic and Social Research Council) who says local residents have taken to calling it “phantom scaffolding” – it is erected, no work is done and then it is dismantled and moved on.  He goes on to say:

"It makes you wonder if they are storing it there because it kills two birds with one stone – firstly it’s somewhere to put it and secondly it makes them look as though they’re doing work."