Cash fears for garden suburb

CONCERNS have been raised over a lack of financial help to maintain and enhance a special conservation area, writes Caren McPate.

Westerton Garden Suburb is one of several conservation and Townscape Protection Areas being reviewed by East Dunbartonshire Council.

With more than 80 homes, Westerton is the only true Garden Suburb in Scotland and will celebrate its centenary in 2013.

While residents have welcomed the retention of the conservation status, they expressed several worries during a recent public consultation.

These include a lack of financial help towards the maintenance and repair of houses to the necessary conservation and listed building standards.

Previously, 25 per cent funding from the council was matched by Historic Scotland’s National Townscape Scheme. However, the Historic Scotland scheme has now been discontinued.

Among the residents comments from the consultation included: “Many home owners are elderly and/or on low income”, “The funding ensured a continuous flow of roof, window and roughcast repairs, with residents happy to pay the rest. and” “Absence of financial support will only contribute to further deterioration.”

Comments were also made that the council itself does not comply with the conservation ethos, for example stone kerbs being replaced with concrete and unsympathetic timber handrails to the steps on Stirling Avenue.

Bearsden South Councillor Vaughan Moody echoed the concerns. He said: “Grant assistance would have potentially halved the cost of a recent window replacement project, from £8,000 to £4,000.

“The lack of financial support is not only unhelpful to the conservation area but actually works against it by making it harder for local people proactively looking to maintain and enhance this unique conservation area.”

East Dunbartonshire Council has allocated £30,000 towards its Heritage Fund for 2011/12 which Westerton Garden Suburb could benefit from.

The council has agreed to carry out several action points in response to the comments made, including investigating the range of alterations that can be carried out that may be potentially exempt from VAT.

They also said that findings of the review will be brought to the attention of relevant services to increase awareness of the requirement to carry out public realm works in keeping with conservation standards.