“Millions earmarked for Barras regeneration,” goes the stuck record. Beneath the headlines of a £27m package to transform the area around the Barras into a “must-visit” area and an “events quarter” lurks the familiar threat – the Barras Market may not exist for much longer.
The apparent desire to rid the Barras of the market comes hot on the heels of a similar exercise just down the road at Paddy’s Market, which closed its doors in 2009 following decades of neglect and a campaign to denigrate the market via the ever compliant local media. The council have paid Network Rail, who own the land which housed Paddy’s Market, £500,000 to ensure the land is unused. While many traders shut their doors, some moved to the Barras, only to see claims their stalls and businesses caused crime and anti-social behaviour move with them. With the latest report denouncing those who “operate behind roller shutters,” it’s beginning to look eerily familiar.
This regeneration scheme also bears a striking resemblance to the previous £3.5m plan, which we were assured would turn the area into…a cultural quarter, as part of one of Glasgow’s “biggest regeneration movements.” The question then, as now, is where the Barras are supposed to be moving to?
The Calton Barras Action Plan (CBAP) stated the market was central to regeneration of the area and was approved back in 2012, with Calton councillor and former Barras trader, Yvonne Kucuk, frequently providing the local press with cheery quotes about the benefits to the area. Amongst the crowning achievements of the CBAP has been the Barrowland Park, a green space created for the Commonwealth Games. The central feature of the park was “Album Pathway” by artist Jim Lambie which is dedicated to the many acts who have played at the Barrowlands. With the Games over, the park will be demolished and replaced by shops and expensive flats…while the new council report waxes lyrical about stimulating the artistic scene and capitalising on the area’s musical history.
Yet a few years later and with the CBAP still in motion, it seems the market is viewed as on its last legs and doesn’t seem as important as “business units…for social or commercial use” – known to you and I as “shops.” Oddly, Yvonne Kucuk hasn’t featured so prominently in discussions about who’s likely to benefit from the latest £27m. Perhaps because she‘s still busy explaining who benefited from another multi million pound regeneration project in Dalmarnock.
The Dalmarnock Legacy Hub employed Kucuk as a “regeneration manager” and also employs her husband. The Hub is operated by the People‘s Development Trust, where Kucuk’s cousin sat on the board until 2014, before relinquishing his place to his son. 2 other councillors are or were employed by the Hub and/or the trust. Despite being engulfed in a nepotism scandal, Kucuk recently attempted to seek a nomination for Labour at Holyrood. Central office eventually stepped in, with a bizarre statement about the shortlist not reflecting Labour’s aspirations for diversity i.e. “are you fucking joking?”
For decades now, the council has pursued a singular strategy of “arts led regeneration” (AKA gentrification) without any consideration of the consequences for the residents of the areas they claim to represent. Sadly, this latest report offers much of the same. I’m more than happy to stick my neck out to defend arts funding, even if it’s shite/unpopular and even at a time of austerity. But the council don’t care about the arts or the creative industries, they are just a tool to deliver an economic, social and political project.
With 1500 job cuts announced this week, it’s clear degeneration not regeneration remains the fundamental strategy. People with no jobs can’t buy things at a market, they can’t pay their rising rents, so their only option is move to areas not yet being eyed by the developers.
The answer to poor housing is always to talk down an area to deplete property values, then move the artists in to empty units to drive the prices up, so private developers can build expensive houses, 10 years later, once everyone who lived there has been forced out. The benefits to the council are twofold – they can increase the tax receipts for the land by driving out poor people and replacing them with higher earners and they get to fill their and anyone they knows boots, by awarding themselves cushy jobs in the ever-expanding regeneration industry. The notion we could just build social housing or that constituencies also contain people hasn’t occurred to those who’ve ran the council for the last 3 and a bit decades.
The answer to what an area needs is always more flats and shops (the report suggests 4-6 storey buildings in the surrounding area) never more green space (“Open space shall be provided in accordance with the policies and requirements of the Council“). The notion that more open public spaces like Barrowland Park could be a permanent feature of our City doesn’t cross the minds of the reports authors or the bean counters. We can do a bit better than some statutory grass.
It’s completely dishonest for the Council to attempt to link the alleged regeneration of the area with the market, without a clear commitment to the market’s future. Pretending huge public investment is intended to increase footfall at the Barras and then focusing so much on building yet more flats and shops is pure doublespeak. Ultimately, our elected leaders can only call so many things a “quarter” before people realise they’re talking out their (w)holes.
Despite the large public investment and despite the rhetoric of regenerated quarters, one question remains: will the Barras actually be saved or will it be hung out to dry by the media, re-drawn by the developers and culturally quartered by the council?
If the record of our local politicians is anything to go by, the traders will have a fight on their hands if they are to avoid becoming subjects of a new art installation about how we loved the Barras so much, we closed them down to make more space for posh flats.
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