Chairmanís Report AGM 2009 presented at
Pollokshields Burgh Hall 20th April 2009
- Maxwell Park station: The conclusion of Glasgow Building Preservation Trust Options appraisal is that it will cost £750,000 + to regenerate the building with water drainage and sewage connections. This is largely down to extraordinary costs due to the building being on a island platform, in a deep cutting, with operating railway tracks and high voltage power cables either side. Health and Safety would be a major issue resulting in many works having to take place out with railway operating hours. Given costs it is unlikely to receive funding from either the array of grant funders or railway companies at the current time as it would not be considered value for money especially given priorities elsewhere in the network. Consequently towards the end of 2008 PH have entered into an arrangement with First Scotrail under their Adopt-a- Station scheme and have received grant monies from Glasgow City Council’s South Area committee and the Railway Heritage Trust to refurbish the former ticket office at street level into a meeting room available for small community group meetings and as a venue for exhibitions. PH have also begun an environmental improvement programme with planters appearing on the station platform and more to follow shortly. The Meeting room was opened by Jack Kernahan former local resident and author of “The Cathcart Circle” on 15th January 2009 with delegates including Tom Harris MP and David Meikle present. The meeting room is available to hire at a very favorable rates and has attracted considerable interest to date.
- Trees at Maxwell Park Station. Sadly whilst we were in the process of Adopting the Station it came to our attention that Network Rail were conducting what they termed vegetation management on the embankments between Maxwell Park and Shawlands. Not only did this involve what appeared to be the indiscriminate removal of trees on this stretch of the Cathcart Circle it also became apparent that Network Rail wanted to remove of every other tree from the avenue of trees on the station embankment along Terregles Avenue and all trees from the Fotheringay Road side. Network Rail’s justification was that leaves of the line were causing trains to overshoot the platform at the station. The impact of the loss of trees on both East and West Pollokshields’ Conservation areas, and on the general amenity of the neighbourhood, was a major concern for us. We along with many local residents strongly objected to Network Rail. A meeting was arranged between Network Rail and community representatives including Nicola Sturgeon MSP, Councillor David Meikle and I. Though this meeting was initially open to all members of the community Network Rail retracted the offer at the last minute. The outcome of the meeting was mixed. We attempted to get the communities point of view across but Network Rail were insistent that Health and Safety came first. They did admit that they needed to improve community consultation in urban areas. Frustratingly even though they noted that tests on the rail head appeared to show the problems at the station had been solved they still intended to proceed with the removal of the Fotheringay trees. We did look into various methods for thwarting this including repeatedly asking GCC to TPO the trees under Town Planning Legislation. The council declined to proceed with TPO’s as the trees were on NR’s land and they felt it a waste of money to do so as NR would object. Other legal avenues were explored but without success. The difficulty here is that Network Rail is a ’statutory provider’ and in certain instances, such as Health and Safety, they can circumvent Town and Country Planning legislation. NR have recently carried out some re-planting with holies and blackthorn on the Fotheringay side and wild privet on Terregles but alas we will not be getting any trees. They did seek PH input but our suggestions for photinia hedge, honeysuckle, rowan trees and poppies, ox-eye daisies and foxgloves, with hollies and a beech hedge were all knocked back NR have also indicated that they will be maintaining the embankments from now on though arguably if they had been properly maintained in the first place the need for such drastic vegetation management would not have arisen. One benefit is that we can at least now see the charming Maxwell Park station once more, the other has been that later works between Maxwell Park and Pollokshields West have been far less invasive, but when we know the benefits to health and well being of mature trees in urban areas you still have to ask is it worth it? However this has focused our minds on the value of the trees in the garden suburb, particularly as this is not an isolated event, and we have asked GCC’s Tree Officer Morna Henderson to attend a meeting to discuss the council’s strategy.
- Ready Steady Grow 2009. The successful 2008 inaugural garden festival event occurred on a beautiful summer weekend. With walks, face painting, the green faerie, and community demonstrations turn out was very encouraging. Consequently there is enthusiasm for the development of the event on an annual basis. Ready Steady Grow 2009 will take place on Sunday 27th June with activities spread across the neighbourhood as before, and local environmental action groups and organisations providing information, consultation opportunities, guided walks, plant stalls, and tearooms. As well as ourselves organisation involved include The Hidden Gardens, the New Victoria Gardens, Theatre Found, the Quad and Leslie Street Greenspaces Group, Nan McKay Hall, the Deck Access Groups, the new Health Shop, and Friends of Maxwell Park. More participants are very welcome. As part of our works at Maxwell Park Station Pollokshields Heritage will be mounting a Scottish Station Adopters Exhibition so we can show off the new Meeting Room.
- Leslie Street Greenspaces. Something we remain committed too. This formed a main element of our objections to the draft City Plan 2 as together with the Leslie Street Greenspaces Group we want to change the policy zoning for these Greenspaces from DEV 2 Residential and Supporting Uses to DEV 11 Greenspace to ensure that they cannot be built on and we do not find ourselves back to square one campaigning to save these as local greenspace at a future date. At the City Plan 2 Public Inquiry the reporter agreed to a site visit to better appreciate these spaces for herself. We hope this bodes well for the campaign and await the reporters’ response with interest. We are now, together with the Leslie Street Greenspaces Goup working with BE+ architects on proposals for these spaces and are currently in the middle of application to the South Area committee. You can appreciate their ideas from the boards at the back of the hall. What we are also keen to ensure is that the RES 3 contributions from developers for providing amenity space of site are spent on environmental improvements such as these If a use for the RES 3 funds is not identified within a 5 year time period they will revert back to the developers hence the urgency!
- In our objections at the City Plan 2 public inquiry we have also focused on the lack of a master plan for the area between East Pollokshields and Port Eglinton and remain concerned about this. Again this has been frustrating particularly when we are conscious of other good work being done by the council elsewhere in the city particularly the East End Local Development Strategy which addresses many of the points we have raised. It has also been frustrating to see concessions negotiated with the council at the inquiry being lost in the course of events. Whilst we were combating NR over losing embankment trees at Maxwell Park we were also combating proposals to develop 4 and 5 storey buildings along the embankments at Darnley Street. If God is in the details so is the devil and in City Plan one for some reason on the environmental designations map these small strips of land had been denoted for residential use even though in the draft City Plan 2 they had been indicated as part of the wildlife corridor. We do not agree with building on these sites. Not only are they too tight to provide their own amenity space which has to be provided off site, we also feel it contrary to the original Pollokshields master plan the buildings of which addressed the railway in a positive manner with their public faces. Sadly though the city conceded this point the planning application for one of these sites, which was running concurrently, was approved on the basis of City Plan 1 less than two weeks later.
- Our objections to the draft City Plan 2 have also touched on the issue of how the city’s streets are composed and how we can encourage this in a positive manner so as they assist sustainability. Again we have used this as part of our criticism of the Port Eglinton developments. For instance contrast how one of the great tenemental streets of East Pollokshields Glencairn Drive is composed, and works, so that it is a pleasure to walk along; with the new Barrland Street at Eglinton Toll which struggles to attain these qualities or learn the lessons from its near neighbour. If you want sustainable urban development then these are the details the city has to think about. Arguably we can and have done better. And to touch again on why good urban design and architecture does matter it is good to know that we aren’t alone in our criticisms of the new Plaza development at Eglinton Toll which was voted the winner of this year’s Zit Building Award.
- The Glasgow Urban Design Panel. I referred to our work on the panel last year and the panel is growing in clout with more developers now requesting pre-application reviews. This is a welcome trend as it can help influence the outcome of a scheme before a submission has been made and it gets more difficult to argue for changes. There have been several contentious schemes before us this year but the most difficult one has been 110 Queen Street on the site of the Bank of Scotland diagonally opposite from GOMA at Royal Exchange Square. This application is an example of what the architecture critic Peter Wilson calls the Uber Application. That is were a developer proposes something considerably larger than allowed under policy in the knowledge that it will get reduced in size through negotiation but what remains is still larger than what the policy permitted. And that is exactly what happened here. In our discussions the architect refused to reveal how much larger the build was than what currently occupied the site. Even reduced by 2 floors the building is still over twice the area permitted under policy! This is important because it’s right at the heart of Glasgow’s central conservation area and is surrounded by A and B listed buildings. Owners of surrounding buildings will have been monitoring this so there is a risk that they will do likewise...
- The Copenhagen architect and public space expert Jan Gehl has a lovely quote about his city: ‘How nice it is to wake up every morning and know that your city is a little better than it was the day before.’ However we are finding this harder and Harder to do! So we are as ever looking for volunteers both for the committee and for newsletter deliveries about which Karin Currie wants a word after.
Our planning convener Helen Barnard also has a proposal for you with regards to replacement lamp posts through out the area and we are very interested to hear feedback from our members on that.
I also want to take this opportunity to thank the other committee members for their support in particular, Iain Dyer the deputy chair for his patience advice and work at the City Plan 2 public inquiry, Hilary Stanger our treasurer who again has the patience of a saint and always goes the extra mile, Janet Brand our secretary who is also leading the charge on our new website, Karin Currie our newsletter editor, both Karin and John Thomson for their work on Maxwell Park Station, Ann Laing for being our station gardener, both Hilary Stanger and Evelyn Lennie for organizing newsletter deliveries, Elizabeth Jarvis for assisting with the AGM and Helen Barnard our planning convener for the time it takes to review all the planning submissions over the course of the last year in the conservation areas and for her work at the City Plan 2 public inquiry.
I also take this opportunity to introduce our speaker Dr Russell Jones of the The Glasgow Centre for Population Health who will give the AGM lecture on “Healthy Urban Planning”
The Glasgow Centre for Population Health was set up by the Scottish Government in 2004 to research our poor health track record, in partnership with the NHS, Glasgow City Council and the University of Glasgow, and to pioneer a holistic approach to planning issues.
Healthy urban planning puts the needs of people and communities at the heart of the planning process, and takes account of the implications of its decisions for human health and well being. Finding the right balance between social, environmental and economic pressures has much in common with planning for sustainable development, exploring the impact of the natural and built environment on human health, and how people interact with that environment in a way that can facilitate healthy living. How much do our local greenspaces contribute to better health?
Dr. Russell Jones, Public Health Programme Manager at the Glasgow Centre for Population Health, will explain the background to Glasgow’s experience of healthy urban planning and achievements thus far as a test site for the ‘Equally Well’ project, part of our national strategy for addressing health inequalities.
Niall Murphy 20th April 2009