A recurring theme in our monthly blogs this year has been the volume of plans and changes which require Glaswegians to make sense of without having had the opportunity to contribute ideas.
The latest strategy to emerge from Glasgow City Council is one for the City Centre. A glossy 50 page document with an accompanying survey form, the photos artfully arranged to present an image of a dynamic, attractive urban destination. We present the aims of the document in its own words before considering the reality of city centre life and briefly assessing the meaning of what is on offer.
“The CCS 2024-30 will support Glasgow’s City Development Plan by identifying key areas with higher potential for change, informed by the recommendations of evidence based reports commissioned by Glasgow City Council in an effort to identify the most effective approach to the post-Covid 19 recovery.
The vision of the CCS 2024-30 revolves around three thematic pillars:
• Magnetic Experience
• Front Door to Innovation
• A Place to Live
The proposals included in this strategy set a programme of activity for the next six years focused upon the three pillars and a number of “Big Moves”, which are further explained later in this document. The Council will work in partnership with businesses, stakeholders and communities to respond to the dynamic environment of the city centre, and to shape its future collaboratively.”
The “Big Moves” have apparently been informed by: ‘the “Plan of Plans”, mapping existing policies, strategies, documents and aspirations for the city centre, in consultation with internal and external stakeholders, which will magically address the city’s aspirations for a wellbeing economy, its climate crisis challenges and bring about connected and green spaces.
In the face of this, any new arrival at Central Station must be struck when they exit by the number of empty shops on Union Street and the numbers of homeless people struggling to meet their basic needs. Taking a walk down to the Clyde, they might be surprised to find the number of new hotels which border the desolation of the river. They might be notionally impressed by the new Barclays campus but then wonder why the Oatlands area just a little to the East is so depressed, and they might register surprise at the number of overflowing litter bins. Wishing to travel further afield, they might also find that there are places that are not easily accessible by public transport, and that they cannot buy single tickets which cover all modes of travel.
What these examples tell us is that a previous focus on retail as the basis of developing the city has not worked. There has been a rash of closures throughout the city which is likely to deteriorate further with increasing financial pressures. Public displays of homelessness are indicative of the lack of affordable homes – indeed it has recently been revealed that hundreds of people in Glasgow facing homelessness have not been housed by the City Council because of this lack of suitable accommodation which is in breach of the law. Unemptied litter bins are just another symptom of the Council’s lack of resources to fulfil its basic duties. The transport system which is part private and part public, has not been integrated or properly regulated.
Overall, it is our argument that plans which rely on using public money to subsidise private developers (which this strategy, like many others, is surely all about) never resolve the underlying problems of inequality and neglect which scar the city. Further, the ’’consultation’ like so many others merely invites participants to ratify, or not, the proposals which are in the strategy. There is no opportunity to comment or recommend alternative ways of reviving the city centre to meet the needs of all of the population, rather than for tourists and those residents who can afford to use its facilities.
We have only summarised the city centre strategy here but we urge you to read it critically and let us have your thoughts.