After recovering from the hangover of the Games, Glasgow City Council appear to be back on form with a vengeance this week; announcing the details of their plans to use Compulsory Purchase Orders to expand Buchanan Galleries or “the Buchanan Quarter” as nobody calls it (we’re running out of how many quarters the council thinks they can fit into their (w)hole) into an event bigger mass of glass and shopping. Today we learned that their alleged consultation over what to do with the playing fields in Victoria Park entered the “putting it on Gumtree” phase. This may come as a surprise to residents, who were promised they would be consulted over any change in use and to property consultants, Ryden, who were employed to carry out an as yet unpublished feasibility study. It’s unlikely Ryden will be complaining, since they are now acting as agents for the lease of the land. Their report will probably not say “nah, it’s a bit shit” or “what’s best for the community is best for us” when they’ll doubtless be taking a cut on the proceeds of the deal. What happens next will probably depend on whether GCC decide it’s feasible for them to punt a chunk of the park off and stay in their jobs.
Back in 2006, the Council planned to build a car park (or “hard surfaced area…used on a limited number of occasions by motorists” in GCC-speak) on the site, with a road through the park to allow it to be used as overspill for Scotstoun Stadium. The plans fell apart following a local campaign, with David Moyes providing the sort-of- stardust, the former Celtic defender and erstwhile Man United boss played his first matches on the pitches there. Since the Council last attempted to rid themselves of this space, it has continued to fall further into disrepair and disuse, as is always the way when the Council intends on eventually flogging something off although at the time, they denounced as “unwarranted” claims that the park was at increased risk from developers. Today you can phone a number and ask to “develop” on it, if you happen to have the cash.
There is a clear majority who want something to happen with this public space, this isn’t about just letting land, even parkland, go to waste and be unused. But it’s not likely the Community Council will have the dosh to rent it to, so what could happen to this part of the park? I made a wee list, as usual:
A wee shop
What every park surely needs is a branch of Greggs and another Topman. While it’s not likely they’re be room to build a Partick Forge in a corner of Victoria Park, you can bet what the council want most is some sort of shop front. At 6.8 acres (over 3 football pitches, if that’s your way of measuring) there might be room for one or two largish units, like a B&Q or a Garden Centre. Perhaps a Poundland could provide the necessary work(fare) for the local young team and it will basically all be fine.
Yer Big Shop
My favourite use of George Square in recent times was when about a third of it was given over to what looked like a series of connected portaloos . I peered in on my way by and a small gap in the metal monstrosity revealed some kind of temporary Tesco, since the poor wee retailing giant doesn’t have anywhere else to camp out save our most famous of public spaces. Except for those 2 branches within 5 minutes walk either way on Ingram Street and Renfield Street but when you’re as good at misplacing the contents of your till as GCC are, every little helps!
The Ryden report is keen to emphasise the potential for some boozing and as we all know, the Council love boozing in the park and have proved really good at rationally dealing with it in the past. It may not be long before a branch of Spoons or some nice G1 Bar gets a license to transform the former fields into the “Victoria Quarter” – a new Merchant City of the West.
One popular local plan was to plant trees on the land, and use it as a community orchard. To this we say, be very careful what you wish for. It’s completely inconceivable the council would allow acts of open communist militancy, like the growing of fruit for local use on public land, without insisting on attaching it to a PFI-funded microbrewery/beard sanctuary to balance the public-private zen. It would after all bring a few shitey service industry jobs to the park, allowing those struggling to find gainful employment elsewhere to pull pints more pricey than their hourly rates and no doubt feel “regenerated” as fuck. How do you like them apples?
The continued attack on public space and parks in particular by the Council comes not long after the outcry over their proposed Park Management Rules, limiting everything from dogs and bikes to sport and paramilitary training. Within the document was their guiding principle: “The Council reserves the right to levy a charge or charges for the use of any park or for any facilities or services provided in any park and the Council shall have the right to alter such charges without notice” or “they’re only public parks if we say they are.” 6.8 acres of Victoria Park is now real estate, a commercial development “opportunity” where the only thing consulted will be the bank balances of whoever happens to want it.
The kind of neglect which this area of Victoria Park has been subjected to by the Council now looks like a clear plan to sell us a “better than nothing” development on the basis that the council didn’t know what to do with it. The community had many ideas for it, from new football pitches to a community garden but it’s not as though whichever commercial entity rents the land will be handing it over for the planting of trees or the hosting of civic events. Any claim the council care what residents of the area or indeed the city want for our green spaces is thrown out the window when they start just chucking chunks of them in online ads.
Unless this is opposed and strongly, the land will never make its way back into public hands and will become just another small part of the city sold off to the highest bidder, when the Council hoped nobody was paying attention. If you want to rent the land and return it to public use or even if you just think others would benefit from hearing why this land shouldn’t be pawned off, why not see if you can negotiate its return with the agents? I’m sure they’ll be very reasonable, maybe don’t tell them we sent you though…