Stop the demolition of the Concert Hall steps

As you may or may not have heard, the city council plan to demolish the steps at the top of Buchanan Street (a much-used and enjoyed public space in the heart of our busy city), and replace them with a glass atrium. If you oppose this idea, please join our campaign to act quickly: the deadline for public objections to the demolition is TOMORROW, Friday the 5th of December (see below for template letter to save you time). If you are very pressed for time, 38 Degrees have ready-made option for you here: https://secure.38degrees.org.uk/fb-steps-speakout

Then on Saturday the 6th at 2pm there will be a demo at the steps. We’d love to have you along to show the council just how much the steps mean to Glasgow. We anticipate a wide range of community and campaign groups (as well as a speech from Patrick Harvie and music from local buskers). You are actively encouraged to bring teeshirts, banners or placards from your own movement, as well as some declaring your support for the steps. 

Otherwise, we are very grateful for your help in sharing the two above action points (ie. objection messages — with the 38 Degrees link — by Friday, and the demo) far and wide.

With many thanks for all and any efforts you are able to make to save this brilliant civic space,
Save The Steps campaign 
FB: https://www.facebook.com/saveourstepsglasgow

Objection e-mails should be sent to planning.representations@glasgow.gov.uk, stating that you are writing about Reference: 14/02569/DC – ie. the demolition of the steps.

And here’s a template letter, which you can prefix with your own ideas and opinions:

4th December 2014 

To whom it may concern, 

I am writing in objection of Glasgow City Council’s current planning application: 

-14/02554/DC: | Mixed use development comprising extensions to shopping centre (comparison and convenience retail floor space), Class 11, Class 3, Class 2, Class 4 and public house uses, erection of entrance atrium, demolition of existing car park, erection of new car park, landscaping, public realm and ancillary works, new vehicle access and servicing arrangements. | Buchanan Galleries 220 Buchanan Street City Centre Glasgow 

I am in opposition of these plans for a number of reasons that clash with Glasgow City Council’s “City Plan 2”. 

In planning application: 14/02554/DC: 

- In “Planning Statement Final”, in Section 3.10, it states: 

“People’s behaviour in many urban areas was often seen to be dictated, either positively or negatively, by the physical fabric within it. If negative, it can influence perceptions of a place, prevent social interaction and dissuade people from walking or being active. Meeting local needs within walking distance of their homes, providing access to good quality greenspace and designing communities to encourage interaction and pedestrian movement are all principles of design that are widely endorsed within best practice guidance documents.” 

Demolishing the steps and replacing them with a glass atrium clashes with the Development Strategy on page 30 of City Plan 2, which states that the Development Strategy seeks to: 

“promote social renewal by enriching the environment of the City and creating attractive living and working environments, improving quality of life.” 

The steps have been a community meeting place for social interaction and encourages people to be active in using the steps to enter to Glasgow Royal Concert Hall. 

- In Part 2 (Development Strategy Priorities and Proposals) of City Plan 2, it states on page 26, under Urban Design, that: 

“The Plan seeks to secure the highest possible quality of environment and to encourage imaginative and innovative design that respects its context, contributes to sustainability and enhances the City to create safe, successful and inclusive places (see policies DES 1: Development Design Principles and DES 2: Sustainable Design and Construction).” 

This clashes with the article published by respected Glasgow architect magazine, Urban Realm, that highlights how campaigners believe that the proposed glass rotunda is “generic and underwhelming”. The details of this planning application do not explain what will happen with the iconic statue of Donald Dewar, with the article stating that it may be removed and “will be replaced with a circular array of ‘art stones”. 

- In Page 14 of “Planning Statement” (Prepared by GVA James Barr November 2014), in states in point 3.29: 

“The development layout creates a pleasant positive sense of place which is welcoming, promotes visual equality, encourages social interaction, connectivity and considers the place before vehicle movement.” 

However, demolishing the steps, a popular and appreciated meeting area with Glasgow’s citizens would clash with the above Subject Policy and the Development Strategy on page 30 of City Plan 2, which states that the Development Strategy seeks to: 

“promote social renewal by enriching the environment of the City and creating attractive living and working environments, improving quality of life.” 

On top of the above planning applications clashing with the policies outlined in City Plan 2, there are a number of other reasons why the demolition of these steps would be extremely unpopular with Glasgow residents. 

The decision would be undemocratic. At present, this is a key forum for free speech within the city and the removal of the steps would represent the privatisation of a public space. 

The decision to remove the steps and build a glass atrium remains relatively unknown amongst Glasgow residents. There has been a lack of public consultation regarding this. Over 12,000 people have signed an online petition to keep the steps (https://you.38degrees.org.uk/petitions/save-the-steps) and Glasgow City Council have not responded to growing public opinion. 

The decision would affect the character of Glasgow City Centre. Apart from George Square, which is surrounded by continual noise pollution from traffic, there are very few places for resident to meet socially. Glasgow may be known for it’s choice of retail options, but the city loses out to Edinburgh for iconic architecture and cultural areas. 

The decision about the possible removal of Donald Dewar, a key figure in Scotland’s political history, as part of the development, would disappoint and upset residents of the city. 

I sincerely hope you take these key reasons seriously as to why these iconic steps should not be demolished.

The Herald is today carrying a story titled:

“Warning lack of investment putting public parks at risk”

At the heart of the story is a report by the Heritage Lottery Fund – State of UK Public Parks 2014.

The report is lengthy but there is a clear narrative in the conclusion and the associated press association copy:

“In addition to calling for continued investment by local authorities, the report also highlights the need for developing new ways of looking after and funding parks.” Press Association

New finance models and rethinking delivery
The future health and vitality of parks services will be dependent on developing new business models for management to complement those that currently exist.” State of UK Public Parks 2014 Conclusion

This is the second story pushing a parks-in-crisis narrative in as many months. The recent Evening Times article – City in cash plea to public to help parks – had its roots in a report for Nesta titled “Rethinking Parks – Exploring New Business Models for Parks in the 21st Century”.

Concerns that these reports are driven by the commercial interests that stand to gain most from the privatisation of public parks are shared in some in the comments following the Guardian’s story:

“There is an agenda behind this morning’s coverage on the BBC. Drew Bennellick was inviting “private investment”… and we know where that heads.

1: Invent a crisis
2: Cure it with a ‘private investment opportunity’”

This strategy (crisis narrative followed by market-based-solution) – a well-known lobbying/PR technique – has been used to considerable effect in the push to privatise the NHS in England:

“For the entire length of 2013, the NHS came under relentless attack on grounds of “quality” by politicians and the right-wing press, driving the privatisation agenda.” The Guardian

You can write to your politicians here



Lessons Learned Review

George Square GCC Update

City's parks under threat

City’s parks ‘at risk’

The Evening Times is today running an article titled “City in cash plea to help parks”. The gist of the story is that Glasgow’s parks need additional private and public investment or they risk deterioration and disappearing altogether.

It includes comments from GCC’s Land and Environment Director, Brian Devlin:

“Scotland’s urban parks and green spaces are at risk”

And from (disgraced former SPT chair) Alistair Watson, GCC’s Land and Environment ‘spokesman’ :

“MyParkGlasgow will involve Glaswegians and businesses by giving them a real say in what parks and open space projects they would like to support.”

The Evening Times article follows this GCC report outlining plans for a “MyParkScotland & Greenspaces fund” which will (according to the report):

  • Establish a “giving” website dedicated to Glasgow (and Scotland wide) Parks & Openspaces.
  • Encourage “giving” from local and multinational organisations and individuals to support Glasgow parks and openspaces projects.
  • Establish a local panel made up from the establishment of a “Friends of Glasgow Parks forum”, local communities groups and local businesses.

The document also outlines plans to establish a “MyParkGlasgow Fund Local Panel” which would be to “identify and put forward projects and recommend the spending of monies in the MyParkGlasgow Fund on local parks and green space projects that need financial support.”

It would be “intended” this panel would include “the local business sector” and the Glasgow business lobby, the Chamber of Commerce. (“George Square can also be a driver of business”)

The document then outlines some next steps which include seeking funding from Nesta’s “Rethinking Parks” project. You can read more about Rethinking Parks here:

“Exploring New Business Models for Parks in the 21st Century”

These plans, which further open Glasgow’s public spaces up to private interests follow the controversial new parks rules proposals (which include giving more powers over our parks to GCC quangos with commercial membership) and the shambolic ‘redevelopment’ of Glasgow’s famous public park, George Square.

The current state of George Square, and its continued deterioration serve as a stark reminder of what can happen to public spaces when they are opened up to private interests.

You can write to your councillor here


The proposed rules include:

  • giving new powers to quangos (including those with a commercial membership) to refuse admission to Glasgow’s parks
  • giving the Director of Land and Environmental Services the power to remove public access rights to any park at any time
  • A cycle speed limit of 5mph (but motorised vehicles a 10mph limit)
  • Requiring written consent to “play or practice any organised sport”
  • A ban on gathering in numbers of more than 20.

You can read Glasgow City Council’s committee document here and the proposed rules here

A petition opposing elements of the review is currently nearing 5,000 signatures.

You can also write to your councillor quickly via the www.writetothem.com website

Glasgow City Council’s consultation page on their website invites us to write to

Land and Environmental Services
Parks Management Rules
Exchange House
231 George St
G1 1RX

before the 14 February 2014 to object

This is from an article in the Daily Record in 1998 and documents the felling of George Square’s famous Swedish White Beam trees:

“THE last of the historic trees in Glasgow’s George Square was felled yesterday – under the cover of darkness.

Glasgow City Council chiefs insist the trees – victims of Dutch Elm disease – were rotting, and a danger to the public.

But even they admit the pounds 200,000 revamp of the square could have been handled much better.

Last night, a council spokesman was at the ready, insisting new trees would be arriving Tuesday.

It will take more than that, though, to win-round a sceptical Glasgow public that was never warned of the re-vamp.”

Read the article in full here http://bit.ly/1dVrboe

Glasgow 1980 (1971) from TheGMan1974 on Vimeo.

The Joint Memorandum of Understanding between Glasgow City Council and the Glasgow Chamber of Commerce lobby.

Taken from Facebook.com/restoregeorgesquare

The “Tax Increment Financing” (TIF) part of the Buchanan Galleries expansion is spent on public infrastructure improvements (public realm, streetscape, repairing cathedral street bridge, George Square etc, as a way of smartening up the surrounding area for the gazillions of new shoppers who will use the expanded mall. The TIF is a 25 year mortgage which the Council takes out to pay for its part of this and reckons to pay back from the higher business rates it will get from the Buchanan galleries and surrounding areas. The business case on which the (Labour) council and (SNP) government approved this scheme was based on the assumption that the worst case retail growth will be better over the next 25 years than it has been over the past 25 years. The developers do chip in a bit too but the council still has the TIF mortgage to pay off in the end.