(Y)our Sustainable City Centre Here is the second blog from the team working to prepare Districts Regeneration Frameworks for Cowcaddens, Townhead, the Learning Quarter and the Merchant City. Judith Sykes and Carrie Behar are from Useful Projects which is a sustainable innovation consultancy for the built environment. They specialise in climate and biodiversity emergency planning, circular economy, social value and wellbeing, and design thinking and creativity.
A global and local imperative
The climate emergency and catastrophic biodiversity loss are two of the most pressing challenges facing the world today. In the context of a rapidly urbanising global population, every city has a part to play in addressing these challenges, by supporting the transition to a more equitable society and supporting citizens in leading sustainable lifestyles.
Glasgow has a strong impetus for implementing sustainable development. It can capitalise on the co-benefits of climate change and biodiversity loss mitigation as it manages relevant budgets around health, transport and housing, and has a deep understanding of how the different policy priorities impact on each other. Sustainability has been at the core of Glasgow’s planning and development policy for many years. It underpins the latest City Development Plan (2016), and is at the heart of the draft City Centre Living Strategy Vision 2035 and the Draft City Centre Strategic Development Framework (forthcoming). Furthermore, initiatives such as Sustainable Glasgow and the Connectivity Commission are examples of how Glasgow has successfully sought to take a fresh and holistic approach to environmental, social and economic development by advocating a partnership approach to travel and public transport provision.
In 2019, the Council joined other local authorities in declaring a climate emergency and set an ambitious target to become climate neutral by 2030. The city was due to host this year’s Conference of Parties annual climate change summit (COP26), currently postponed to 2021.
An unprecedented opportunity
The unprecedented response to COVID-19 shows just how quickly we can change. During the national lockdown, we have seen a glimpse of what a future city could look like: fewer cars, cleaner, quieter and more pleasant streets, better air quality and an increase in walking and cycling. In Scotland, the First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, has already stated that the post-lockdown transition should reset agendas around sustainability.
Other international cities and organisations are joining the #buildbackbetter movement. For example, Amsterdam is applying doughnut economics as part of their planning for post-COVID recovery. Amsterdam’s vision is to be “a thriving, regenerative and inclusive city for all citizens while respecting the planetary boundaries”. Cities such as BogotἯspan> have provided emergency bikeways, and Milan is hoping to permanently reallocate street space from cars to cycling and walking, as part of a radical transformation prompted by the coronavirus crisis.
Building on success in four unique neighbourhoods
The District Regeneration Frameworks (DRFs) for Cowcaddens, Townhead, the ‘Learning Quarter’ and the Merchant City neighbourhoods will need to respond to the specific challenges and opportunities inherent in the fabric and social composition of each district. Working closely with local communities, to shape the transformation of their neighbourhoods into flourishing and sustainable pieces of city will bring this about.
While the distinct characteristics of each neighbourhood will be retained and celebrated, the city centre will achieve greater social and physical coherence through the application of shared sustainability themes and objectives. These include carbon neutrality, zero waste in construction and operation, biodiversity net gain, high physical and digital connectivity, empowered communities, and active, healthy lifestyles. The DRFs provide an opportunity to improve the neighbourhoods to provide a setting for greater inclusivity and justice- through the shaping of the physical environment in a way that enables and encourages people to live healthy lifestyles and attain the best possible quality of life.
To ensure the success of the DRFs, we intend to work with communities and stakeholders to develop distinctive, local solutions that are relevant to Glasgow and can be delivered in partnership to address these global challenges. Through extensive consultation and community engagement, we are gathering diverse perspectives and moving towards developing a consensus around a shared vision of success. The outcome of this approach will be a city that puts people at its heart.
COVID-19 has shown us that we can adapt. Now is the time to pause and reflect on some of the great work that Glasgow is already doing in meeting the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (e.g. Avenues, Future City Glasgow, Circular Glasgow), before setting out a plan of action and an enabling framework that allows Glasgow to go even further in becoming a truly world-class sustainable city.
Judith Sykes and Carrie Behar
Our role on this project is to develop a sustainability framework for the DRFs, and to act as an experienced and creative ‘critical friend’ to the project team, to ensure the application of international best practice to deliver a thriving city – based on a sustainable, healthy and inclusive
This is the first blog from the team working to prepare Districts Regeneration Frameworks for Cowcaddens, Townhead, the Learning Quarter and the Merchant City.Christopher Martin is Co-Founder and Director of Urban Strategy at Urban Movement; is a member of the United Nations Planning and Climate Action Group; a Trustee of Living Streets; and on the Executive Committee of the UK Urban Design Group.
In light of the current situation in which we find ourselves and spending a lot of time thinking creatively about Glasgow’s future with the District Regeneration Framework team, I have been reflecting a lot. Never before has local and national Government, the press, or we as the public been as interested in the design of our towns and cities as we are today.
We have heard so much recently about what COVID-19 means for cities; the way we will live, the way we will move, and the way we will work. Now more than ever, we have been made acutely aware of the adverse effects that certain urban conditions can have on our lives – in particular our health, happiness, and prosperity.
This crisis has bought into sharp focus the cities that we need to benefit our health and quality of life and help our city to thrive. As apart of the District Regeneration Framework we want to work with everyone to help shape the future Glasgow that we need.
The immediate solution to this crisis is ‘space’, and space is – and will be – the commodity that we must consider more carefully. How do we use the space we have to tackle this, the future crises we will face, as well as delivering all the advantages of cities for people?
We need space for movement, space to get around, so we need to prioritise space-efficient transport modes. Public transport is under massive pressure at the moment with people having to physically distance, and there isn’t enough space for everyone to drive – so space efficiency is the answer and we need to promote these modes. Indeed, everyone who walks or jumps on a bike to get where they need to go is helping key workers and people who sorely need to use public transport to get about more easily – and less stressfully.
We need more space for leisure, play and community as well. This crisis has brought communities together and made them stronger. We have seen neighbours chatting in the streets and children playing. In the immediate term for safety, but also in the future for improved quality of life and inclusive growth, we need to keep residential and community streets as places where children can learn to ride a bike or play together, and where community life can thrive.
Sometimes it is left out of discussions about the public realm, but we all need space for business as well, and more than ever. The economic fallout of this crisis will be challenging, so we will have to use the space we have in a way that actually – not anecdotally – strengthens the economy for all, and gives us vibrant, prosperous, and fun streets and spaces. Let’s face it, one thing we know for sure – we’re all going to need a good laugh when this is over, so we need to act now on our streets and public spaces to make sure we keep business and social life alive. The only conceivable way for pubs, cafes, and restaurants to meet physical distancing rules is if we can put tables and chairs on the streets.
To my mind, however you picture this, the way forward from today has to be an economic recovery strategy. To succeed, we need to prioritise space for economic recovery, space for health, space for community, and space for life to unfold. And when it comes to transport, we have to use ways of getting about that safeguard and deliver the space that we need – space for the recovery.
Glasgow City Council has appointed a multidisciplinary team of local and international consultants to prepare for the next phase of our City Centre District Regeneration Frameworks (DRFs).
Austin-Smith-Lord will lead the team, in partnership with Rotterdam based urbanists Studio for New Realities, WAVEparticle and will also draw upon the expertise of Urban Movement and Civic Engineers. The four districts for phase 3 of the DRFs are Cowcaddens, Townhead, the “Learning Quarter” and the Merchant City.
These DRFs will be prepared in consultation with the local communities across all four districts to enhance their distinctive local character. To do this, consultants will be working in partnership with residents, businesses, community and civic organisations, as well as, Strathclyde University, Glasgow Caledonian University and the City of Glasgow College. This mix of knowledge and expertise will develop forward-thinking plans to help shape the future of these districts.
The Regeneration Frameworks will create a planning strategy to respond to challenges and opportunities these communities face to enhance the quality of life, health and wellbeing of the local communities, economy and environment.
The DRFs will promote local and large scale projects in an action plan which considers how to fund and deliver regeneration with short, medium and long term aims for each district. The DRFs will be prepared in consultation and cooperation with local communities over the remainder of 2020 and 2021. The intention is that publication will take place in 2022. Councillor Susan Aitken, Leader of Glasgow City Council and City Convener for Inclusive Economic Growth, said:
“It’s vital that our city centre is equipped for both the structural changes facing our high streets and the need for carbon neutrality within the next decade. These shifts are already creating both challenge and opportunity, and the district regeneration frameworks will give us the blueprints to renew the beating heart of Glasgow. A team of leading experts with international and local experience will assist us in shaping that future, whilst retaining the strengths and character we cherish about each district. We need our communities to come with us so I would urge all those whose neighbourhoods are within the frameworks to get involved in our consultation in the months ahead.”
Former Old Firm players helped launch a new alternative giving scheme for people involved in street begging in Glasgow city centre on Tuesday 3 March. Ex Rangers striker, Mark Hateley, and former Celtic defender, Tosh McKinlay, joined supporters of Street Change Glasgow in Central Station to unveil one of three new contactless card donation points installed in the city centre to raise funds for vulnerable people. Both the Garage and Cathouse night clubs are also hosting Street Change Glasgow donation points and it is hoped more businesses will sign up soon to expand the network.
Third sector organisations, businesses, Glasgow City Council and the city’s Health & Social Care Partnership (GCHSCP) have teamed up with Simon Community Scotland to launch the new alternative giving scheme. It offers the public an alternative to putting change in a cup, to help bring about positive, long term change for people involved in street begging.
Glasgow’s Lord Provost’s Fund has donated £10,000 towards the initiative and CGI, the council’s I.T. provider, paid for the new donation points which accept donations via contactless bank cards. A raffle by Best Bar None Glasgow also raised almost £4500 for the fund.
Street Change Glasgow will help vulnerable people improve their lives long term. The fund will be led and managed by Simon Community Scotland and payments will be made to individuals via Glasgow’s Street Team which works with people on the streets and is funded by GCHSCP.
Money from the fund will be used to pay for items such as travel to or clothing for job interviews, to provide tools or protective clothing required to take up a job offer or continue employment or to help people access training.
Lorraine McGrath, Chief Executive of Simon Community Scotland said: “We are constantly working to find new ways to reach, respond and resolve the kind of desperation that drives someone to street beg. Street Change Glasgow provides one such new way for us to reach and bring new options for people to assist them to move away from the harms that result from street begging. We are delighted and privileged to host the initiative and bring all of our expertise in responding to the most extreme vulnerabilities of those caught up in all forms of street lifestyles. We know from direct experience what difference having access targeted funds can make in bring change for even the most chronic and concerning circumstances, working person by person to find what works for them.”
Street Change Glasgow is based on a similar scheme in Manchester which members of Glasgow’s Working Group on Street Begging visited while developing this initiative. Councillor Allan Casey, Chair of Glasgow’s Working Group on Street Begging, said: “Glasgow City Council is proud to be a partner in this exciting initiative which will be a first of its kind in Scotland. Glasgow is a generous city and people care deeply about those who are vulnerable and marginalised. They regularly give their spare change to people who are begging. This may help in the short term, but may not bring about positive, long term change in that person’s life. Street Change Glasgow will offer the public a new way to help, which aims to deliver long term change for individuals – giving them personalised practical support to improve their lives by pursuing positive paths.”
Drew Burns, Network Rail’s station manager for Glasgow Central, said: “Over 40million customers pass through Glasgow Central every year and they are always quick to support the charity initiatives we host in the station. The Street Change Glasgow project will give passengers another option for donating to help the city’s most vulnerable residents and we are pleased to be part of it.”
Brian Fulton, Owner/Director of Hold Fast Entertainment, which runs the Cathouse and the Garage, explained why his company is supporting the scheme. He said: “We hope Street Change Glasgow will make a real difference to vulnerable people’s lives. It is an innovative concept and I’m sure the contactless donation points will be popular with our customers. Many young people don’t carry cash these days, but still want to do their bit to help people who are less fortunate, so contactless donations will appeal to them.”
Street Change Glasgow will work alongside existing services and initiatives which help vulnerable people in the city centre such as Glasgow’s homelessness services, Glasgow Alliance to End Homelessness, the city’s Digital & Financial Inclusion Outreach Officer and Housing First.
Other partners involved in Street Change Glasgow include Glasgow City Mission, Turning Point, Red Media, The Big Issue, Housing First Scotland, Glasgow Chamber of Commerce, Homeless Network Scotland, Police Scotland and British Transport Police.
The City Centre Mural Trail companion booklets have always been popular with visitors and residents alike. Bright, colourful and full of information, they help people understand the scope of the project, provide background to each artwork and identify their locations. The booklets also include a short description of other interesting places to visit or things to see in the vicinity of each mural.
As well as being a helpful guide to the installations themselves, many visitors also appreciate them as a keepsake or a memento of their time in Glasgow. Glasgow City Council regularly receives requests for booklets from people interested in the City Centre Mural Trail, from all over the world.
We are, therefore, happy to announce that the new booklet has been completed and that copies will be made available from the usual outlets; most notably GCC offices at 231 George Street, and the Visit Scotland information centre in Buchanan Street. We also hope to be able to make copies available from a number of Glasgow Life venues such as the People’s Palace, and Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum, as we have done in the past. You can download the booklet here.
As always, our thanks go to our colleagues in the council’s Graphics team for all their help, especially to Allen Caldwell who has been the principal artist for every booklet we have produced.
[NB] Unfortunately, whilst the new booklet was in production the Tiger mural at Custom House Quay received extensive graffiti damage. Despite our huge disappointment at its loss we’ve been left with no option but to paint over this location. Consequently, its inclusion in the new booklet is no longer accurate.
On a semi-related note, Glasgow City Council occasionally receives requests from students who have chosen the City Centre Mural Trail as a topic for part of their own course work. Sometimes these requests are simply for more detailed information about the project, sometimes they ask for an interview with an officer involved in the initiative. We try to assist wherever we can and hope that our involvement benefits the students work.
One such request was from Ellie Bryson who was studying an HND in Media and Communication at City of Glasgow College. Ellie has since completed her project and passed her class. As Ellie explained, her video “…was really fun to work on, and allowed me to explore a different side to Glasgow which I wasn’t aware of.” We think her video is fantastic and Ellie has allowed us to share it here:
Additionally, we’ve also learned that the City Centre Mural Trail will be the subject of a talk to be delivered by Federica Giacobbe to the Scottish Tourist Guide Association board during their upcoming Annual General Meeting.
Presenting the City’s ambitions for the development of the city centre over the next 15-30 years.
About this Event
Glasgow City Council is increasingly investing in built environment transformations that promote positive health behaviours, such as active transportation and social inclusion. Representatives from Glasgow City Council Development & Regeneration Services will present the City’s ambitions for the development of the city centre over the next 15-30 years.
Towards a more people-focused, liveable place.
2 March 2020, Glasgow School of Art- Reid Building, 164 Renfrew Street, Glasgow, G3 6RQ
6.30 – 6.40 Welcome
6.40 – 7.00 City Centre Strategic Development Framework
7.00 – 7.20 City Centre Living Strategy
7.20 – 8.00 Discussion and feedback