Tuesday, 17 January 2012

The Broomielaw

The Broomielaw and the Tradeston Footbridge
A long time ago, spring 2009 to be precise, Stephen Purcell, the leader of Glasgow City Council formally opened the Tradeston footbridge over the River Clyde from the Broomielaw on the North bank to Tradeston.  The new bridge formed the focus of a £33 million regeneration scheme for the area which involved strengthening existing quays walls to create an attractive public space. But not for long.

At the opening Purcell said:
“The Tradeston Bridge and the wider scheme to develop new public places will act as a catalyst for future regeneration of the Tradeston area.  It is important that the public purse continues to invest in the city’s infrastructure at this difficult time to bolster Glasgow’s economy and pave the way for future development along the Clyde waterfront.”
This is where the conflict seems to come in: creating public spaces and bolstering the economy no longer appear compatible.

While the area can not be considered a high quality green space(it isn't green at all), it is well used even on typical damp dreary winter days.  It is busy with joggers, cyclists (it forms part of the national cycling network) and by workers from nearby offices escaping for a few minutes break from their desk. On the few days when the sun deems to grace us with its presence it is busy with people enjoying their sandwiches while topping up their Vitamin D levels, even in January.  With this popularity it must be considered a success as a public place but, alas, it doesn't make money for the council.  There is clearly no value in boositng Vitamin D, reducing stress levels in our hard working citizens or getting more people out to stretch their legs and get some exercise. Glasgow is known as such a healthy city after all.

No. The money is to be made in pubs.  Glaswegians like their drink, that is why Glaswegians are more likely to suffer alcohol related deaths than anywhere else in the UK.  But Glasgow City Council can see past that to the money and have formed a joint venture with a private developer to dig up the area and build a 3000 square metre,  £10m complex of bars and restaurants on the waterfront.

It will create 150 jobs say the council but with many bars and restaurant's elsewhere in the city struggling to survive it is likely that these jobs, subsidised by the tax payer, will be at the expense of jobs elsewhere in the city. On the other hand, if we can encourage people to drink more, some of the jobs will be sustainable. Along with jobs in A&E, social services and to clean up afterwards.

Then there is the location.  Why use the new public space when around half of the grandly names International Financial Services District between Central Station and the M8 Motorway is vacant, and has been for many years.  You can see on the map below the large empty lots and there are other buildings that have been cleansed of their occupants, some bu compulsory purchase, in the hope that big developers, such as Dubai based Jumeirah Group, would come in and spend money. They didn't and the sites are still empty.

View Larger Map

The area desperately needs development but making use of the derelict sites, not building on the limited open public spaces, unless the council creates a park in one of the vacant sites. And the development should be sustainable and supporting of the local economy. Not multinational chains in high heat loss glass boxes with patio heaters for the smokers.

I apologise that this is a bit off topic but I enjoyed the winter sun peeking from behind the clouds while sitting on the Broomielaw this afternoon, wondering how long I'll be able to do this without buying an overpriced Latte for the privilege.

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