A guest post by Nick Wright
One thing I love about Glasgow city centre is the buzz: people everywhere, events in the street, new places to visit.
In my professional life as an urban planner, I’m really interested in how to help make that buzz even better. Planning is often thought of as a legalistic activity, regulating new development. But it can also be proactive and creative activity. When it comes to making the city centre buzz, a good starting point for me is to work with the folk who make that buzz, to find out what they need to happen to build even more buzz.
I’ve been lucky enough to have worked with the Council’s City Centre Regeneration Team – the dedicated folk who are behind this website – to put that concept into practice. The City Centre Lanes Strategy prepared for the team by WMUD is a good example. Its purpose was to understand and promote the practical potential of the city centre’s lanes to bring more buzz to the city centre. At the heart of the work were dozens of conversations with local businesses, residents, artists and entrepreneurs who wanted to bring life to the lanes so we could understand what they saw as the potential, what was stopping them, and how to remove those barriers.
Those conversations led to a strategy and action plan which the Council has moved quickly to act upon. Within months of the Lanes Strategy being finalised, the Council had implemented the single most important action from all those we spoke to: removed unsightly and polluting commercial waste bins from the lanes. At a stroke, rewriting commercial waste and recycling rules removed the single most significant barrier to realising the potential of the city centre’s lanes. This has quickly been followed by a £100,000 City Centre Lanes Activation Fund, the sole purpose of which is to support businesses, residents and artists in developing lanes as attractive and exciting places.
For me, the Lanes Strategy and its implementation is a wonderful example of the Council working collaboratively with local people and organisations to help them make their environment better. From the outset, the ethos of the Lanes Strategy was to support collaborative action, based on local ideas – inspired by good examples like Melbourne and Montreal, but not trying to impose their solutions in Glasgow. I think that’s wonderful.
A recent blog post on this website highlighted another excellent example of collaborative working in the city centre: the High Street Area Strategy. Behind that rather mundane title lies an exciting vision and action plan for the future, which helps the local community itself bring more life to the area. Like the Lanes Strategy, the Council’s City Centre Strategy Team were behind this work too.
These two examples are part of a shift, not just in what the city centre offers (as illustrated by Iain MacPherson’s recent blog post on this website on co-working), but also how the Council manages and supports those changes. For me, working collaboratively and proactively with local businesses, residents, artists and entrepreneurs has to be the way forward. It’s great to see some examples of this taking root in the city centre.