When the SNP came to power in Glasgow in 2017, it was on the promise of standing up to the “cronyism and abuse of power” that, they directly stated, was rife in the City Chambers. The city had at that time been controlled by Labour for 37 years, and you did not need to look far for evidence of nefarious goings on. A “truth and reconciliation” investigation was mooted, which would allow allegations of “institutional misconduct” to be fully scrutinised.
If the plan is to “throw open the doors of the City Chambers and let the light shine in”, one area worth further scrutiny may be the land deals surrounding the Commonwealth Games, which at one time sparked a police investigation. Six years on from the dazzling mega-event, questions remain unanswered about exactly what went on, who knew what, and who benefitted from the multi-million pound transfers of land that preceded the transformation of Dalmarnock, home of a new arena and the Athletes’ Village.
Central to proceedings at the time was the local councillor, a product of the days when Labour could safely take 90% of the seats on the city council. George Redmond was first elected in 1999 for the Bridgeton and Dalmarnock ward and would continue to sit as a representative until 2017. Major regeneration proposals were being drawn up for the area by the early 2000s, and Redmond was quick to spy the opportunity it presented. At the heart of it lay plans for a “big event to attract spending and to focus the different stakeholders and their resources on this area,” he told Inside Housing in 2009.
“The east end of Glasgow is about opportunity,” he was quoted as saying. “These are exciting times.”
Redmond was, and is, a landlord with several flats in and around the Dalmarnock area. Nearby, a vast, 35 hectare site was set to be cleared for the 1400-home Athlete’s Village and associated infrastructure. Land values would, inevitably, spiral. He was also the chair of the local regeneration quango, and one of the stars of the BBC’s “Commonwealth City” documentary (on Youtube), which followed local residents as they experienced the changes happening at their front door. He told the documentary that while he wasn’t personally responsible for all of the £1bn investment attracted to the area, he liked to think he had “had a big influence in most of it”.
The councillor had long standing connections to the area. Indeed, his cousins, the Faulds family, had “ruled it for at least two generations”, according to a 2008 article in the Sunday Mail. “So many of them have broken the law, that they could have had their own courtroom,” the article went on.
Redmond told the BBC filmmakers that “he has so many relatives and friends, you know, within that area and you really want to to do well for them.” Documents now revealed to this blog have shown the extent to which Redmond’s relatives were able to benefit from the Compulsory Purchase Order, drawn up by Glasgow City Council, that was used to take control of the land needed to develop the Games infrastructure.
Another central figure in the BBC documentary was Darren Faulds, introduced as the “local entrepreneur” who owns and operates the local off-licence (108 Springfield Road), pound shop (106 Springfield Road) and cafe (94 Springfield Road). The shops at 106 and 108 had originally been bought by his father in the late 1990s for £20,000 and £10,000 each. In the documentary, Faulds describes the three units as his “little empire” repeatedly referring to them as “my” shops – an important detail. In other scenes we see him taking an active role in running them, commenting on stock, opening up the cafe, and – eventually – packing everything up before the bulldozers move in. While the off-licence had been trading for a decade, the pound shop is not believed to have been a long established business. Several of the surrounding units lay derelict and the upstairs housing had long since been vacated.
The documentary commentary mentions, on a number of occasions, that Faulds is the nephew of Councillor Redmond, although they do not meet on camera.
In January 2010, all potential claimants – the tenants and owners of the properties set to be compulsory purchased – were advised to appoint a surveyor or lawyer to handle their case. In February, the council received claims from the owners of the three shop units – in this case, Faulds’ wife for 108 and his mother-in-law for 106 and 94. This is detailed in the “Statement of Case” for the CPO, a legal document setting out the council’s position in respect of the acquisition of land. The document has been reviewed by this blog.
But this is where confusion sets in. When it comes to 106 and 108 Springfield Road, the owners’ claims refer to the “substantial rental income” the properties make and how the CPO will prejudice their right to this income. The Statement of Case then goes on to detail a separate claim – albeit one issued by the same lawyer and on the same day – from the alleged tenant of both 106 and 108 Springfield Road. This is not, as you might expect, Darren Faulds – who we see in the documentary both running the shops and claiming to own them. Rather, it’s a David Crosbie, described as running a “successful business” across the two properties. He was not included on an earlier document accompanying the CPO, which states that the “lessee or occupiers” of the properties are the owners.
Whose “successful business”?
Substantial pay-outs were made – and fast. The Faulds received £67,500 for each shop unit in October 2-2010, and the company owned by Darren’s mother-in-law received £75,500 for the cafe around nine months later. The valuations, for both property and loss of business, were made by the Valuation Office Agency, a service provided by the UK government. It is then the purchaser’s discretion – in this case Glasgow City Council – whether to follow the valuer’s guidance. After a Freedom of Information request, the Valuation Office Agency refused to disclose their valuation for the business units on Springfield Road. What is clear is that the claims were settled quickly, leaving little time to investigate the trading arrangement of the units. This was in stark contrast to the experience of some other CPO claimants, where there was an extensive back and forth over the true value of the property.
What we do know is that the council paid out twice, to separate parties, for 106 and 108, two units owned by the relatives of a Labour councillor who boasted about his “big influence” in bringing the Games to the area. David Crosbie – who claimed to run a “successful business” at these units – received £64,000 and £48,000 for “total extinguishment” of his business. Local sources have cast doubt on whether Crosbie ever ran a business at either unit. Certainly, he does not feature in the documentary, where Darren’s running of his “little empire” is one of the key storylines – yet it was Crosbie who received some £112,000 for loss of the two businesses. Something does not add up.
While acting out one thing in front of the documentary cameras and asking lawyers to present an entirely different version of events to the land purchaser and valuers may seem, at best, duplicitous, it’s worth bearing in mind that the screening date for the documentary was always going to be just ahead of the Games, at that time more than four years away.
Glasgow’s bid for the 2014 Games was first announced in 2005. A flurry of speculative property activity soon got underway in the East End. It is well established that Charles Price, a London-based developer, bought up land for £8m that same year. He would sell it on for £17m just a few years later, when it was needed for the Athletes’ Village. In a similar vein, David Murray bought a contaminated former industrial site in Dalmarnock for £375,000 in 2005. Four years later, the publicly funded regeneration quango Clyde Gateway would snap it up for £5.1 million. Another deal saw publicly-owned land given away free to a property developer, only to be bought back three years later for £1.3m.
Within this context, it becomes easier to believe that a hundred thousand or so may have slipped under the radar. But as for who knew what, not least the council officials and lawyers who signed off on the payments, is an area that does need some light shone in on it.