The value and life of a park – Public discussion on our parks

Kelvingrove barriers

Every so often we are, if you even know about it, consulted by Glasgow City Council, about what we want in our public parks. At the last consultation I don’t remember the public agreeing that we should have much more in the way of lock-out festivals and expensive, ticketed, gigs, taking up great swathes of our park space over the summer period when we need the park most. The problem with these consultations is is that they just seem like exercises in get consensus to allow more commercialisation of the park.

The problem is as we see it is. The public do not just need consulted in these matters, we need to be involved in the discussion that leads to decisions. And to be involved in the discussion we need also to be aware of all of the facts relating to not only to the decisions made in our behalf, but also the longer term impact that these decisions will have on our green space.

The value of parks needs to be equated by more than the shallow monetary value put on them and the superficial business orientated consultations which add up to the same thing. The city administration and public need to start taking these thing seriously and understand the real value that is attached to our city parks.

When somebody tells you “Nobody uses it” “The parks have to pay for themselves”  along with the sometimes pathetic excuses used to allow building on green space by developers and city administrators alike. We need to, (particularly our young who have most to lose,) be able to give them a cost benefit analysis on our green space and on how parks more than pay for themselves by:

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Detoxing the environment

The production of oxygen

The removal of carbon dioxide and other toxins

Creates water drainage and anti-flooding

Wild life habitats.

Solar energy

Benefits for mental health.

The vistas and sense of space as a release from manic traffic.

A space to exist as a family unit. Reduces friction, stress and family break-ups.

Escape from city stress that leads to crime and violence.   

Building block for a sense of community

Autonomous space equality for everybody.

No commerce.

Safe for bikes, safe for football, amateur sports, productions, events, physical space 

Freedom of speech Speakers Corner. Tradition of protest, Rally’s

Last bastion of space for the poorest in our communities.

The countryside in the city

An excellent recipe for childhood education, physics and science in nature

Stagnant ponds could be rejuvenated by solar power fountains. And introducing the person on the street to science…

The park belongs to no one and to everyone.

Look at just one element of our parks, trees.

Evergreen trees can be used to reduce wind speed (and usefully, loss of heat from your home in the winter by as much as 10 to 50 percent.)

Trees absorb and block noise and reduce glare. A well placed tree can reduce noise by as much as 40 percent.

Fallen tree leaves can reduce soil temperature and soil moisture loss. Decaying leaves promote soil microorganism and provide nutrients for tree growth.

Trees help settle out and trap dust, pollen and smoke from the air. The dust level in the air can be as much as 75 percent lower on the sheltered side of the tree compared to the windward side.

Trees create an ecosystem to provide habitat and food for birds and other animals.

Trees absorb carbon dioxide and potentially harmful gasses, such as sulphur dioxide, carbon monoxide, from the air and release oxygen.

One large tree can supply a day’s supply of oxygen for four people.

A healthy tree can store 13 pounds of carbon each year – for an acre of trees that equals to 2.6 tons of carbon dioxide.

Each gallon of gasoline burned produces almost 20 pounds of carbon dioxide.

For every 10,000 miles you drive, it takes 7 trees to remove the amount of carbon dioxide produce if your car gets 40 miles per gallon (mpg); it will take 10 trees at 30 mpg; 15 trees at 20 mpg; 20 trees at 15 mpg; and 25 trees at 12 mpg)

Trees help reduce surface water run-off from storms, thus decreasing soil erosion and the accumulation of sediments in streams. They increase ground water recharge and reduce the number of potentially harmful chemicals transported to our streams.

An acre of trees absorb enough carbon dioxide in a year to equal the amount produced when you drive a car 26,000 miles.

Readers of City Strolls will have been listening to this over the last ten years. “The parks are in the process of being privatised” The problem is what citizens are unaware of the business developments that have been been happening over that time, untill they see the barriers going up around their park.

Recently Edinburgh city council deemed the hoardings closing off the view of Princess street gardens for a concert as being inappropriate. The hoardings in question were removed within an hour of the councils edict.

Maybe the start of resistance to the kind of  pay per view being enforced on the access of public spaces. Something we have seen increasingly across Glasgow parks and common spaces. With little or no objections that we are hearing about, from the administrators of our commons, parks and particularly in the lack of stewardship of our Common Good Fund.

So the thinking here is that most park users have a general idea of what the park is there for. Because what people use the park for hasn’t changed much over the last hundred years? Why do we need to be convinced “that the parks need to be fixed before they are broken” (Quote from a council parks survey) “The parks need to pay for themselves, and we are helping in this” (From events organiser with vested interests.)

Why are we constantly asked in consultations. “What do we need in our parks?” Most would answer “Access to our culture and heritage, toilets and a few parkies” But the questions are really designed by each preceding city administration to fulfil their own need through our parks. i.e. the quickest way to emptying our wallets to generate commercial profits.

So what we want to look at here is an event that looks at the cause and effect of the commercial developments being rolled out in our parks. How can we better understand how to challenge the inappropriate use of our parks

And Strategies for better stewardship of parks and green spaces to reverse the commercial decline. How to work towards a long term vision for our green space that serves users and can supersede decisions on park use made by short term administrations who may not have the public’s and park users best interests at heart.

This article relates to an event to be held in Kinning Park Complex at “Parks for people” How to become involved in the discussion and understanding the importance of green space in our lives, economically, physiologically, health wise, environmentally, politically, historically and creatively.

Join us for a debate  at Kinning Park Complex on what our parks are for. (dates will be poster soon)

Times and Speakers to be confirmed. If you want to help out contact or join list.


Radical Imagination/Common Good Awareness Project/Tardis

An eyesore on the linear development of the Clydeside


Another industrial eyesore removed from the historical conscience

The antiques warehouse that used to sit on the waterfront giving a bit of diversity of why folk would be attracted to the river side. Burnt to a cinder over a weekend. No doubt to be replaced by more sterile blocks of flats. Eyesores to the gentrifiers, or should we say cultural colonisers, is anything that might sit at a funny angle, never mind architectural or historical significance, to the grid mentality that builds, not so much flats, but rather, sells investment in cubic meters of walled concrete.[expand title=”trigger more text”]

If we didn’t have the shipyard museum in Govan, and the one lonely column, that stands outside the supermarket in Springburn, what would we have? Where is our industrial heritage? What was once the site of the engineer works that built and exported steam engines all over the world. (25% global market share) Only one single pole remains there, one stanchion from the Hyde Park Works in central Springburn, is what Springburn has physically to represent the industry sweat and labour of its steam engine building past. What an embarrassment. Maybe the city planners should sneak in of a night time and remove it, or it may internally combust on its own, if neglected long enough. With this kind of disregard towards our industrial architecture, it should be no surprise that another remnant of our industrial past is bulldozed after going up in flames…

“Glasgow continues to maintain its reputation as the city in which historic buildings “go on fire”, the latest victim of ‘spontaneous combustion being Scotway House in Partick, close to the river Clyde.
A large two-storey pile of polychromatic brick and sandstone, it was designed by Bruce & May and built as offices for the shipbuilders and engineers, David & William Henderson & Co. Many of the record-breaking yachts built in the Meadowside Shipyard were designed in the building, which was listed at Category B. Empty and derelict, however, it had long been on the Buildings at Risk register for Scotland.
With the decline of shipbuilding, Scotway House found itself isolated on cleared ground between the new Riverside Museum – that absurd, impractical shed designed by the late Zaha Hadid – and the new Glasgow Harbour flats. It was first proposed for demolition in 2002. Three years later, the Glasgow Harbour developers proposed re-erecting it on another site as a restaurant. In 2011 it was proposed to restore it as a rock ‘n’ roll hall of lame. Last year it was proposed to convert it into a bar and restaurant next to a planned complex of student flats. All in vain. Last January part of the roof was damaged by fire, and last month the whole building was gutted by a far worse fire. It now stands as a roofless shell, and no doubt what is left will soon be (is being) cleared away for development.” Piloty Private Eye.

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The case of North Kelvin Meadows and The Glasgow Effect


North Kelvin Meadows

Think about it. Is there another campaign at present in the city that has used its assets, common sense, media, resources and everything else to the best of their ability? Can you think of another campaign that has as good a prospect of winning, if given the right support? A project that has helped to delineate the council bosses, position clearly, of profit over people? This campaign if successful would set an example for others to follow in the de-privatisation of public land. The campaign is well run and seems to do all the right things in many ways. It would be a very important model and win if successful and as well to the encouragement of other incipient campaigns and growing spaces in the community. But remember, It could also have the complete opposite effect if it fails. It would set greening spaces back years. The city council bosses also know this, (and the Scottish government) as well as having the added incentive for development opportunities and of stocking the council coffers with the moneys involved, by the selling of this commons and many others like it, that will inevitably come into the future sights of developers .[expand title=”trigger more text”]

The Meadows, would be just the kind of win to boost campaigns of this nature all over the city. Do people in growing spaces realise how important this campaign is to the sustainability of growing and green space? I hope they do and start to come up with some ideas in supporting the campaign, learning from it and using the inspired imagination in building solidarity for the next round in defending this space and others. There is a need to keep up momentum and it should not be left only to the people directly involved at the meadows. (Or other places.) The city council, or/and the Government, will decide the fate of this space. But it will need a collective “City Peoples Council” to make sure they make the right decision and set a precedent for future community development.

Whats this to do with “The Glasgow Effect”?

Quoting from the article links below: ‘A recent report finds that radical attempts to solve Glasgow’s housing problems in the 1960s and 1970s left the city vulnerable when government policy steered investment away from housing and towards retail and other industries in subsequent decades. Walsh added: “The Scottish Office embarked on a series of policies that effectively wrote off the city – they designated it a ‘declining city’ and their plans focused on economic growth elsewhere.”
“This was a policy that went on for decades despite an awareness that this was having a massively negative impact in socio-economic terms and therefore on health.”’

Basically they are saying in the early 80s, the city stopped investing in its people and social housing and shifted its interests to business investment. Which is a big part of the reason for the so called “Glasgow Effect”.  Why the poverty levels in Glasgow, were 30% higher than other cities, such as Manchester, Birmingham, Liverpool, that deindustrialise at the same time as Glasgow.  You can read about this below. But it also needs to be remembered, importantly. At the same time (early 80s), as the government were de-investing in people, a group of folk in Reidvale, Dennistoun, were investing in themselves. (As the corporation were ripping down tenements and communities with them and packing families of to the schemes and tower blocks, as the corporation, geographically blighted the city space for the use of motorways and commerce.) Many of the people in Reidvale Dennison, during these clearances, said No! We want to stay in our community. Fix our houses we are not moving! And they did stay in their houses, in their community. The rest is history as the people of Reidvale, created a model for Community Based Housing Associations, that is used, not only in Glasgow, but all over Britain.

We have now suffered 30-40 years of de-investment in people. Now the car loving motorway builders are proclaiming “People make Glasgow”  If people make Glasgow, it is going to need more than a branding exercise, that has more to do with selling produce than investing in people. If people make Glasgow, it will be about making council bosses do what they are told and forcing them to invest in our kids, our vulnerable and those trapped in poverty. We need basically to make them eat their own words.

Ideas for looking forward

There is no reason “The Glasgow Effect” should not be made into something wonderful, something unique and meaningful to the people of Glasgow. Turned on its head from something that is done to the city’s people, to something that they do for themselves.

The council did not listen to the people in the community of Reidvale at that time , they were made to listen. And in the case of Kelvin meadows and other such like projects, (the city administration should really be boasting about, the achievements of its citizens, rather than taking the credit), they didn’t listen to any of them either. They were made to listen, Govanhill baths, Kelvingrove bandstand,  Kinningpark Complex, to name a few. As Glaswegian’s, we may have a few attitude problems and don’t think positively enough, as Carol Craig, et al, will remind us. But most, commonly ignore, or underestimate the states role in all of this. The systematic draining of money, resources and assets that took place during the 80s (and continues to this day) that had and is still having a massive effect on the poorest in our city. This was no news to the many who, experienced, have reported and written about it throughout. They were also ignored, and still are.

People “do” make Glasgow. If only more of them realised this simple fact.

The Meadows should become a collective meeting grounds as part of helping to create a “Dear Green Place” benchmark – for those with any interest in freeing the soil of this city in perpetuity for our kids and future generations – until the developers are completely cast off this bit of public land. Winning could be easier than we think and the effect could spread to awaken the public conscience to more ideas for looking forward. And perish the thought, there is a lot of fun to be had to.

It is not rocket science, when we look around us, to understand where the money is being spent, invested and where it is not. Do we really need reports that take years to write to tell us this? It is right in front of our eyes. Like everything else, we have just gotten used to it. So much of our attention is being diverted by, the positive thinking industry, or the  “But this is the real world” theory. So much energy put into ideas, concepts, explanations, excuses of why things are happening to us. We are all just getting used to all of it, learned to live with it and to shield ourselves from dealing with it. There was an old 60s saying that is fitting when the glut of rhetoric outweighed the practicalities. “Move you arse and your brain will follow.” Not poetic, but It has never been more apt advice, than it is at present. People make Glasgow, sure, but which people, you? Me? What are the ideas for doing it together? Because it’s not going to happen otherwise.

The secret History of our Streets

Half of it is about showing up. Frida Berrigan



As elected representatives of the Pinkston Drive Tenants

Sighthill’s Pinkston Drive – What the tenants want

we would like to put in a final request that we be allowed to address the Regeneration Sub-Committee directly. For the past five years we have lived with the threat of demolition hanging over Sighthill. We have fought tirelessly to keep our homes and save services like the concierge. PTA members and others have helped set-up charities and voluntary groups to provide much needed local childcare and social support services; helped refugees to stay here; and raised dozens of tenants’ complaints demanding proper repairs and maintenance. All this with no financial gain to ourselves, only the prospect of keeping our homes and saving the community we’ve fought hard to maintain.

In 2006 the original Save Our Homes campaign took the step of becoming a GHA recognised RTO and have worked closely with GHA Tenant participation officers since. Our reps attended Monday’s RTO Event – making links with some of the other 48 RTOs.

As you know, despite paying relatively high rents, we have had no investment from GHA – recognised for the first time in the rent freeze for 2009/2010. The buildings have inevitably become run down in that time, yet the community still retains its identity and the will to fight to stay together. This is testament to the strength of our community and our belief in it. We have become a melting pot of cultures, one week recently at St Rollox church 21 different countries were represented! An estimated 50 nationalities live side by side in Pinkston Drive – one of Scotland’s most ethnically diverse and social integrated communities.

Pinkston has also become a cause celebre with articles appearing regularly in the local and national media. Regular interviews on real radio, stv news, articles in Scotland on Sunday, The Evening Times, Springburn Herald, and Inside Housing magazine. Our association has organised 17 well attended and representative public meetings over 5 years. As well as support from local Labour MSP Paul Martin we have also been supported on a weekly basis by SNP councillor Phil Greene, and by MSPs Sandra White (SNP) and Patrick Harvie Green Party Co-Convener who took a tour of Sighthill in February and also number Mr Tony Benn amongst our supporters.

In June a month long series of 3 Minute Wonders short films exclusively about Pinkston Drive will be screened on channel 4.
At our last public meeting in March Mr Gerry Creanor (a leading architect from GHA’s regeneration team) and Mr Mick McCabe GHA Director of North East Glasgow Local Shared Services both acknowledged the viability of our flats, revealing what we have said all along: – that our buildings are sound, good for another 40 years life. We were even promised that a show flat could be prepared to change people’s misconceptions about living in Sighthill. These measures would undoubtedly help to raise demand. It would seem that Pinkston Drive could potentially be the jewel in the crown for GHA’s regeneration if gone about in the right way.

Please do not destroy this remarkable street which has already had to cope with the loss of half it’s neighbours in Fountainwell, that alone could have destroyed many communities.

We welcome the BMG results which advocate retaining 32,35 31,34 and 3,5 Pinkston Drive which with investment of around £2million per double block £6million would see 3 blocks reclad, repaired and refurbished with new kitchens and bathrooms within 2-3 years. However we would also strongly urge GHA to look at complete retention of the buildings in Pinkston Drive. As it is now apparent that the cost of renovation and regeneration of the buildings already there are a fraction of what was initially quoted. It would now take a total of £11.08million to reclad, repair and refurbish all 5 blocks and so bring 1,100 homes up to standard. Surely this would be the best way forward for us all?

In making your decision – you may well be told by other voices arguing in favour of demolition, they do not represent tenant’s views. However as PTA officers we have never been welcomed by the Compass LHO Board. Those misguided Sighthill residents on the Board do not have a mandate directly from Pinkston tenants. Out of 1,000 tenants in Drygate, Townhead, Sighthill and Glasgow Cross – only around 100 are actually members of Compass so the vast majority aren’t aware they have no say and cannot vote.

It is to our regret that – with the exception of the ODS Open Day in June 2006 and the February 2009 BMG related Open Day which we co-organised with GHA – Compass LHO Board have never organised any meetings in Sighthill. In contrast we have organised 17 (Seventeen! ) public meetings at St Stephen’s Primary School and have always ensured Compass LHO and/or GHA has been represented at almost every one. In spirit of landlord/tenant partnership our officers have also attended numerous negotiating meetings with GHA officers – who have been very professional. And though not always agreeing with us – they have listened to our concerns.

As a result we jointly commissioned focus groups and an Open Day to discuss the BMG Research findings. These findings were presented, distributed and discussed democratically and in detail with GHA officers and Compass Manager Mr Maguire giving full replies to tenants’ questions. 50 Pinkston tenants present voted unanimously – including those previously favouring total demolition – for the proposal we put to them at the public meeting.

We are now one of the most active, democratic, vibrant and representative RTOs in the city. We invite you to attend the latest meeting on Tuesday May 19th 6.30pm at St Stephen’s School to announce and explain your decision.

We would hope and pray that the right decision is made, the decision the TENANTS want

PHIL McPHEE Hutchie E- A Monument to Corruption, Stupidity and Bad Planning

Hutchie E- A Monument to Corruption, Stupidity and Bad Planning
WHEN THE BULLDOZERS moved into the Hutchie E complex, situated in the Gorbals, they began to remove one of Glasgow’s biggest eyesores. There were many who breathed sighs of relief that day, none more so than Pat Lally and his cronies, the Glasgow District Council, who were the architects and planners of a housing disaster of gigantic proportions. It was pathetic to read of and see pictures in the papers and on T.V. of councillors at the site of the demolition celebrating champagne-style the removal of the evidence of their crass stupidity and greed. A friend remarked at the time: “It’s a pity the buggers weren’t inside the buildings.” That was a sentiment I echoed wholeheartedly.
Of the need for an extensive programme of council housing there can be no doubt. Many of the original inhabitants of the Gorbals (mostly Irish Catholics or descendants) had been herded into the large housing schemes like Castlemilk and Toryglen which were no better than huge open prisons with neither shopping nor transport facilities, so it was not surprising when there was angry clamouring for a return to their roots in the Gorbals area from large sections of the community in Castlemilk. Evidence of this is clear when you compare the population of Castlemilk today, approximately 24,000, to the figure of around 40,000 when at its peak. To ease the political pressures arising from the demands of large sections of the scheme communities to be rehoused back into their former areas, the Hutchie E project was dreamt up by the City Fathers.
When we examine what happened next it is not surprising many people including myself suspected that certain underhand practices might have been involved.
The contract to build Hutchie E was given to a firm called Gilbert Ash, an offshoot of the multinational Bovis Group. Gilbert Ash held a virtual monopoly of the renovation contracts which were being undertaken in Glasgow during the seventies.
The site of Hutchie E was situated above old mine shafts which had been flooded for years. Disaster followed disaster during the construction. After work was halted by flooding (sometimes up to two feet of water on site). When the complex was completed and the decorators moved in they were faced with walls running with water and doors lying off straight lines and moss growing inside the buildings. A painter who worked on the job told me that as he put the wallpaper on it just fell off.
Scandalously, the public were not made aware of these problems. The fact that shifts of men worked overnight on the eve of the opening ceremony by the Queen to make ready the flat which she was to inspect. This was because all the wallpaper had fallen off the walls, which left the contractors panic-stricken.
It was then left for the incoming tenants to find out for themselves just what they had got themselves into. The joke of the day was: “Come and see my flat in Hutchie E. It has all mod cons – even hot and cold running water in the walls.”
Councils officials and Gilbert Ash then disgracefully conspired to shift any blame for their incompetence onto the tenants themselves. Ludicrous excuses were made sucn as: the tenants’ heavy breathing, gas heating, sleeping with windows opens, condensation. All complete rubbish. These officials knew what the problems were and kept it secret.
The pressure grew too great for the Council to bear and they caved into the demands for repair work. Incredibly the contract for repair work was given to Gilbert Ash, the very people who created the problem. The mind boggled at the effrontery of all this. All attempts at repair work ended in failure and from that failure grew even more organised forms of protest.
The Laurieston Information Centre was the base of this organised protest and from there a campaign was launched which resulted in the rehousing of all 2,000-odd tenants. The Council then left the buildings to rot. With the dismantling of the complex Pat Lally and his cronies in the City Chambers are burying their past misdemeanours and mistakes but no-one who showed any concern for what happened will ever forget that for over twelve years Hutchie E complex stood as a monument to corruption, stupidity and bad planning.
Workers City “The Real Glasgow Stands Up”
Edited By Farquar McLay Clydeside Press