Glasgow & West Scotland

Further delay to Glasgow School of Art fire inquiry

Fire at Glasgow school of art Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Glasgow School of Art's Mackintosh building was destroyed by fire in June 2018

Investigations into the fire that destroyed the Glasgow School of Art's Mackintosh building have been hit by further delays, it has been announced.

The world-renowned Charles Rennie Mackintosh-designed building was extensively damaged when a blaze broke out on 15 June 2018.

Last summer it was claimed that investigators were entering the "final phases" of their probe.

They have now said work on the site is expected to take another six months.

The blaze took hold as the building was nearing the end of a £35m restoration following a previous fire in May 2014.

Investigators have examined two parts of the building following the removal of 400 tonnes of charred wreckage, according to the Scottish fire service.

They have also scoured hundreds of hours of CCTV footage and taken witness statements.

But before the final stages of the investigation can take place, more debris needs to be taken away from the "complex site".

The art school announced that the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service investigations would begin on 24 February and were forecast to last about 24 weeks.

Prof Alan Dunlop, one of the UK's leading architects and a Fellow of the Royal Incorporation of Architects in Scotland, said: "The delays in investigation are certainly extreme but it is far better to have a forensic examination that at least offers the potential for establishing accountability."

Analysis by BBC Scotland Arts Correspondent Pauline McLean

Image copyright PA
Image caption The blaze could be seen across the city

It is the one question everyone asks, at home and abroad - what is happening with Glasgow School of Art?

Almost two years after the fire which devastated the Mackintosh building, which was frustratingly close to reopening after another fire four years before, it is still a hard question to answer.

Last summer, they believed they were reaching the final stage of investigation but accessing every part of what remains of the building has been challenging. On 24 February, they will begin anew, using a crane and other machinery to access the remaining areas of the building.

It is a labour intensive operation for a "complex site" and it's expected to take up to six months.

Adding to the misery of local residents and businesses, the work will require the continued closure of the street outside, as well as increased activity onsite for the next six months.

They're not alone. I'm told morale in the school is low - among staff and students.

Hundreds of students signed an open letter in support of Gordon Gibb, who claims he was removed from his post as director of professional studies in architecture, after speaking out about the two fires.

Mr Gibb, who told a Holyrood Committee investigating the fire that responsibility for the future of the Mackintosh should be removed from the current board and management, is currently appealing against the decision.

Students also staged a silent protest outside the latest meeting of the board, chaired by Muriel Gray, for the first time since she stood down temporarily last year.

The GSA board - heavily criticised by that same Holyrood committee for failing to communicate in the wake of both fires - is adamant that they're listening and answering any questions they can.

A statement about the new timetable of work released today includes a message of thanks to residents, students and staff for their "continued understanding".

And while the delays are extreme, a full and forensic examination is still the only way to answer the question of what happened at Glasgow School of Art in June 2018.

And only then can Glasgow School of Art, its students, neighbours and the entire community begin to talk about what happens next.

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