(Y)our District Regeneration Frameworks

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.

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