SPS slammed as residents see home values plummet

TOO CLOSE FOR COMFORT:  Lyndsay Garden says glorious views of Sandford Bay and the North Sea have disappeared with the building of the new jail.'Picture: Morag Ledingham.
TOO CLOSE FOR COMFORT: Lyndsay Garden says glorious views of Sandford Bay and the North Sea have disappeared with the building of the new jail.'Picture: Morag Ledingham.

A PETERHEAD couple claimed last week that the value of their home has plummeted by £40,000 following the erection of the new HMP Grampian.

Lyndsay Garden and Samuel Whitelaw, who live at Seaview Gardens in the town, believe their home is now ‘un-saleable’ because of the location of the new jail.

Speaking to the Buchanie last week, an irate Lyndsay said their lives had been turned upside down since building work began on the new flagship prison.

At a recent meeting between residents and the Scottish Prison Service, aimed at highlighting their worries over the new jail, many left disappointed with the SPS’s apparent lack of concern.

“Every one of us left that meeting very disappointed in the Scottish Prison Service,” said Lyndsay. “The fact that there was no councillor present was also disappointing.

“Our main concern was the fact that the building itself is so close to our homes,” she said.

“The original plans didn’t feature our houses and therefore we had no idea of the scale of the new jail in relation to our homes.

“We are also concerned about the amount of people who wil be visiting the prison coming in close proximity of our homes.

“When we asked if the fence, currently ensuring us a little privacy, could stay instead of a three-feet wall they plan on erecting, we were told it could stay if the we took over the maintenance!

“Our homes have also all dropped dramatically in value £40,000 less to be precise.

“We had put our property on the market a few years ago and in trying to get a re-mortgage a few weeks ago we discovered that it had been valued at £40,000 less.

“A neighbour has been told her property was valueless and unsaleable!”

Lyndsay’s partner Sam had emailed the SPS as early as 2009 asking whether the land behind their home would be kept free of building and even emailed numerous pictures showing the view from their house.

However, he received no email confirmation.

He emailed again in August last year after construction work had begun expressing his anger at the close proximity of the building.

He wrote: “You can clearly see how close the new prison build is in relation to our and neighbouring houses, as well as the close proximity to the local primary school.

“We had plans drawn up for extension work to our existing home but due to this high storey prison building eyesore that now glares in our sight, I will seriously be considering a move, if that is even possible now with the sale of our property.”

The couple have been in touch with their local councillor over the matter and have written repeatedly to the SPS, but to no avail. Banff and Buchan MSP Stewart Stevenson has also been advised of the residents’ concerns, but it appears there is little anyone can do, with the new jail set to open at the end of this year.

Lyndsay added: “It angers me to see all the positive stories surrounding this prison but no one seems to care about how the residents feel! We have lost our views across Sandford Bay, had sleepless nights due to overnight working and our privacy has been compromised,” she added.

Meanwhile, neighbours Martin and Sue Lamarsh have also condemned the SPS.

They told the Buchanie: “At the meeting where the first plans of the new HMP Grampian were on view to the public we clearly remember being told by one of the presentation team, after telling them where we lived, that the building was only going to be two storeys and would only see the roof tops. Hence this is why we didn’t put in a formal objection.

“This couldn’t be further from that at all. Our old view from the kitchen window used to be of Skerry Rock. At the residents’ meetings SPS had said that’s it’s being built to the orignal plans - so what’s the truth here?

“When the landscaping is done we personally don’t want huge trees etc blocking out what view over towards Boddam we have left. Up to now we haven’t been consulted on that and your article in last week’s Buchannie clearly stated this was starting in April.”

John and Ruth Sneddon, also residents of Seaview Gardens, said: “Having attended all meetings by Skanska and the SPS and having voiced our concerns regarding privacy and the proximity of the new prison, we feel totally let down by all concerned.

“In the original plans the new building was not as close to our houses and we were also told we would be able to see over the top of it, where it met our view. This may have been the case if the original site hadn’t been land filled to the tune of 20 feet or thereabouts.

“When we pointed out that the main reception entrance was almost adjacent to one of the rows of houses, we were told that it was ‘only the artists’ impression’, and it would, in fact, be a lot further back. Perhaps naivety on our part, but we believed this would be the case.

“As the main reception area entrance is now at the bottom of our street,we are concerned about safety and privacy being compromised. The plans originally showed a low wall (around 3 feet) dividing the prison from our street. We don’t want our once safe street to become a shortcut to the prison. This was one of the first concerns raised at the first meeting. “A 6 feet wooden slatted fence was erected all around the site, which helps a little, but bear in mind where we are – right on the coast, with the Peterhead winds! This was not planned to be a permanent fixture, and now we’ve been told at the last meeting, that if we want to retain it, we’ve to take over the maintenance of it? I think not...!

“Although happy for everyone that’s employed in the prison - and for those to be employed - that the prison was retained in Peterhead, it’s overall size is much more overbearing than was originally indicated. These are our homes we’re talking about, and the majority of residents have lived here for at least 20 years.

All in all, we feel we’ve been treated dismally by all concerned.”

Other residents, David and Angela Goodman, claim their property has been devalued by £35,000 because of loss of view from their home.

They had planned to build and extension at the back of their house and had secured funding from the bank, but had to re-think their plans once they saw the extent of the prison.

“When the man from the bank asked us why we hadn’t started the work we showed him our view and he immediately understood but had to re-look at the value of our home and he knocked £35,000 off it,” said David.

“When we were first purchasing the house we were interested in the development so we went along to the first meeting with Skanska and and we asked if we would still have a sea view.

“We were told that they would be putting a 2m fence up but they would be deigging down and that our sea view was guaranteed, with everything below the 2m fence.

“We took the guy at his word and went ahead and bought the house. What we have now is definitely not a sea view!” he said.

“The SPS seem to have no regard for the residents of Seaview Gardens at all.”

Commenting on the situation, a spokesman for the SPS told the Buchanie: “The new prison went through all of the necessary planing processes and local residents would have been given the opportunity to comment at that time and make representation to the local authority,”

Meanwhile, local councillor Stephen Smith said: “I can only attend meetings which I either know about or get invited to and nobody contacted me regarding any meeting. I sympathise with Mr Whitelaw and Ms Lindsay but they’ve done the right thing in taking their concerns to the SPS.“

Cllr Stuart Pratt added: “While I sympathise with Ms Garden and Mr Whitelaw, I cannot recall an invite to this meeting I was told about it by a resident a couple of days before hand but had a prior engangment. I can only advise that they are right in taking their concerns to SPS as the new prison went through the proper procedures.”