The coincidence of two events prompted me to choose the subject for today’s blog. The first was the fact that I recently noticed rebranding programmes in the high street and the media. Two that caught my eye were Clintons the greetings card retailer and the animal charity PDSA. The second event was that I’ve recently been involved with projects involving maintenance problems at high level in town centre and city centre locations.
I reflected on the fact that project spend in high street locations is more likely to be on rebranding customer facing areas than on essential repairs to high level facades, roofs, chimneys and rainwater goods. Often the high street traders have responsibility for multi storey buildings but leave upper floors unused. What is clear to those of us who take an interest in building maintenance is that many business owners are taking a risk on a couple of levels.
The first issue is that lack of maintenance particularly in older city centre properties can lead to dampness and dry rot outbreaks which left undetected can spread and lead to expensive remedial works. These properties due to their location can be hard to access for maintenance; and access costs can be disproportionate to the low cost and short duration required to carry out cyclical tasks such as gutter cleaning. Often this means nothing is done until something goes structurally wrong or there is an operational impact on the business. It is worth noting the important role that roof and floor timbers play in the structural stability of traditional buildings.
The second issue is the risk to staff and passers-by from failure to inspect and maintain high level building elements. Large parts of the building stock in Central Scotland and the Scottish Borders is in excess of one hundred years old and constructed traditionally from sandstone, slate, iron and timber. These materials are adversely affected by the Scottish weather and require regular maintenance and/or renewal.
Surveyors often see ‘scary stuff’ resulting from poor maintenance. Decaying stonework, structurally compromised chimneys decayed by soot (‘eaten away’ from the inside out), part detached TV aerial masts and ironwork hanging by a thread are all more common than the general public might expect. People like me spot these issues all the time when going about our business, and in my own case (and much to my wife’s disgust) even when I’m not working.
There will always be the need for retailers to refresh their offer and keep up with their competitors. That said I would caution company directors to recall the Ryan’s Bar tragedy in 2000 where a young waitress lost her life when a loose coping stone fell from the roof down to street level. The fatal accident enquiry that was in progress thirteen years ago this week caused property people in Scotland and beyond to take stock. As time passes it is important that we should never forget our collective responsibility to avoid such tragic occurrences in the future.