SNP - Tom Wills

Family finding SIC repair work “unbearable”

Mandie Fulbirg outside the building site surrounding her house on Stucco in Hillswick. Photo Shetnews

A HILLSWICK mother has taken Shetland Islands Council to task for failing to protect her and her family from the disruption caused by major refurbishment to her council house.

The SIC has contracted Lerwick firm Garriock Brothers Building Centre to replace walls, windows, doors and roofs in six properties on the Stucca estate, work that has been carried out on council houses throughout the islands.

However Mandie Fulbirg, who lives in Stucca with her grown up son and 10 year old daughter, said life had become “unbearable” while the work was proceeding.

The 42 year old has asked to be decanted to escape the noise of drilling and hammering that has been going on for the past few weeks and is set to continue until next month.

Walls, windows, roofs and doors are being replaced in the council properties while the tenants are living there.

However the council has told her they only decant people if they lose vital services such as plumbing or electricity for “a long period of time”, and there are no spare houses available.

“The noise is unbearable, it’s stressing out the whole family,” Fulbirg said.

“I am having to see the doctor because I can’t cope with it, I’m on medication because of it now, and they (the SIC) are just not bothered.”

The Stucca houses include five occupied sheltered houses and the warden’s house where Fulbirg lives, though she is not the warden.

Like many other properties in Shetland, the houses were built in the 1970s using a defective batch of breeze blocks that are now crumbling.

They also have asbestos roofs that need replacing along with windows and doors.

SIC housing executive manager Anita Jamieson said they had done similar work in areas as far afield as Vidlin, Cunningsburgh, Bigton and Aith.

All four walls are being removed and replaced with sound blocks and proper insulation.

“It’s a pretty universal problem across Shetland,” she said.

“The Stucca houses are the latest ones to be identified as a priority for replacement.”

Jamieson defended the council, saying that they had health and safety consultants advising the contractors and held meetings with the tenants, only one of whom had complained.

“I would refute that communication has not been good,” she added, saying there had been plenty of exchanges with the tenant and her department.

However Fulbirg says she is furious with the treatment she has received, saying the council is not doing enough to protect her and her family. She insisted that other tenants on the estate were not happy either.

“The noise levels are really high, they’re drilling the breeze blocks away, they’re ripping the tiles off the roof, and they are just saying there is not an empty house on this island where they can put me so I have to just put up with the noise,” she said.

She became even more angry when the contractors took out a Velux window and boarded it up without her knowledge while she was out of the house, showering over £100’s worth of material to make wedding invitations with dirt – “black, horrible stuff”.

Her shed was also damaged and ornaments have been broken during the work.

On Friday two council inspectors appeared and told Fulbirg to make a list of the damage so she could claim compensation.

Local councillor Andrea Manson said she sympathised with the problem, but said there was little she could do to help.

“I have spoken to the building services section of the council and they are doing all they can for Mandie,” she said.

The five sheltered houses on the right are almost complete while weeks of work lie ahead for the warden's house on the left.

“In an ideal world we would be able to decant our tenants when we are doing this, but the simple matter is that there is a shortage of houses so there is nowhere we can decant them to.”

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