The case of North Kelvin Meadows and The Glasgow Effect

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North Kelvin Meadows

Think about it. Is there another campaign at present in the city that has used its assets, common sense, media, resources and everything else to the best of their ability? Can you think of another campaign that has as good a prospect of winning, if given the right support? A project that has helped to delineate the council bosses, position clearly, of profit over people? This campaign if successful would set an example for others to follow in the de-privatisation of public land. The campaign is well run and seems to do all the right things in many ways. It would be a very important model and win if successful and as well to the encouragement of other incipient campaigns and growing spaces in the community. But remember, It could also have the complete opposite effect if it fails. It would set greening spaces back years. The city council bosses also know this, (and the Scottish government) as well as having the added incentive for development opportunities and of stocking the council coffers with the moneys involved, by the selling of this commons and many others like it, that will inevitably come into the future sights of developers .trigger more text

The Meadows, would be just the kind of win to boost campaigns of this nature all over the city. Do people in growing spaces realise how important this campaign is to the sustainability of growing and green space? I hope they do and start to come up with some ideas in supporting the campaign, learning from it and using the inspired imagination in building solidarity for the next round in defending this space and others. There is a need to keep up momentum and it should not be left only to the people directly involved at the meadows. (Or other places.) The city council, or/and the Government, will decide the fate of this space. But it will need a collective “City Peoples Council” to make sure they make the right decision and set a precedent for future community development.

Whats this to do with “The Glasgow Effect”?

Quoting from the article links below: ‘A recent report finds that radical attempts to solve Glasgow’s housing problems in the 1960s and 1970s left the city vulnerable when government policy steered investment away from housing and towards retail and other industries in subsequent decades. Walsh added: “The Scottish Office embarked on a series of policies that effectively wrote off the city – they designated it a ‘declining city’ and their plans focused on economic growth elsewhere.”
“This was a policy that went on for decades despite an awareness that this was having a massively negative impact in socio-economic terms and therefore on health.”’

Basically they are saying in the early 80s, the city stopped investing in its people and social housing and shifted its interests to business investment. Which is a big part of the reason for the so called “Glasgow Effect”.  Why the poverty levels in Glasgow, were 30% higher than other cities, such as Manchester, Birmingham, Liverpool, that deindustrialise at the same time as Glasgow.  You can read about this below. But it also needs to be remembered, importantly. At the same time (early 80s), as the government were de-investing in people, a group of folk in Reidvale, Dennistoun, were investing in themselves. (As the corporation were ripping down tenements and communities with them and packing families of to the schemes and tower blocks, as the corporation, geographically blighted the city space for the use of motorways and commerce.) Many of the people in Reidvale Dennison, during these clearances, said No! We want to stay in our community. Fix our houses we are not moving! And they did stay in their houses, in their community. The rest is history as the people of Reidvale, created a model for Community Based Housing Associations, that is used, not only in Glasgow, but all over Britain.

We have now suffered 30-40 years of de-investment in people. Now the car loving motorway builders are proclaiming “People make Glasgow”  If people make Glasgow, it is going to need more than a branding exercise, that has more to do with selling produce than investing in people. If people make Glasgow, it will be about making council bosses do what they are told and forcing them to invest in our kids, our vulnerable and those trapped in poverty. We need basically to make them eat their own words.

Ideas for looking forward

There is no reason “The Glasgow Effect” should not be made into something wonderful, something unique and meaningful to the people of Glasgow. Turned on its head from something that is done to the city’s people, to something that they do for themselves.

The council did not listen to the people in the community of Reidvale at that time , they were made to listen. And in the case of Kelvin meadows and other such like projects, (the city administration should really be boasting about, the achievements of its citizens, rather than taking the credit), they didn’t listen to any of them either. They were made to listen, Govanhill baths, Kelvingrove bandstand,  Kinningpark Complex, to name a few. As Glaswegian’s, we may have a few attitude problems and don’t think positively enough, as Carol Craig, et al, will remind us. But most, commonly ignore, or underestimate the states role in all of this. The systematic draining of money, resources and assets that took place during the 80s (and continues to this day) that had and is still having a massive effect on the poorest in our city. This was no news to the many who, experienced, have reported and written about it throughout. They were also ignored, and still are.

People “do” make Glasgow. If only more of them realised this simple fact.

The Meadows should become a collective meeting grounds as part of helping to create a “Dear Green Place” benchmark – for those with any interest in freeing the soil of this city in perpetuity for our kids and future generations – until the developers are completely cast off this bit of public land. Winning could be easier than we think and the effect could spread to awaken the public conscience to more ideas for looking forward. And perish the thought, there is a lot of fun to be had to.

It is not rocket science, when we look around us, to understand where the money is being spent, invested and where it is not. Do we really need reports that take years to write to tell us this? It is right in front of our eyes. Like everything else, we have just gotten used to it. So much of our attention is being diverted by, the positive thinking industry, or the  “But this is the real world” theory. So much energy put into ideas, concepts, explanations, excuses of why things are happening to us. We are all just getting used to all of it, learned to live with it and to shield ourselves from dealing with it. There was an old 60s saying that is fitting when the glut of rhetoric outweighed the practicalities. “Move you arse and your brain will follow.” Not poetic, but It has never been more apt advice, than it is at present. People make Glasgow, sure, but which people, you? Me? What are the ideas for doing it together? Because it’s not going to happen otherwise.

https://www.commonspace.scot/articles/8404/scotland-office-policies-blamed-glasgow-effect-forthcoming-report
http://www.heraldscotland.com/news/14493634.Revealed___Glasgow_effect__mortality_rate_blamed_on_Westminster_social_engineering/?ref=ebln

https://northkelvinmeadow.com

The secret History of our Streets
http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b04ck993

Half of it is about showing up. Frida Berrigan

 

Ian McHarg 1920-2001 Scottish landscape architect Design with nature

Ian McHarg died this day in 2001 (NY Times obituary). He was a Scottish landscape architect who made his name in the University of Pennsylvania where he founded the world famous Department of Landscape Architecture and Regional Planning in1955.

He was born in Clydebank in 1920 and (for those with an interest in the history of mountaineering in Scotland), was one of the Craigallian Fire men.trigger more text

Arguably his most famous legacy is his 1969 book, Design with Nature. One of his pupils and collaborators in the project was the Scottish landscape architect, Mark Turnbull, who is still practising in Scotland today. His book sat on the shelves of my Dad’s study when I was growing up. He was an architect and, as a student, I thought it would make an interesting contribution to the forestry course I was doing at Aberdeen University. However, so dismal was the outlook of the staff there (there were a few honourable exceptions), that the notion of even reading such a book was regarded as too radical. I read it though and recommend it to anyone with an interest in environmental and spatial planning (McHarg invented the sieve mapping technique now standard in GIS – the European Geosciences Union awards a medal in his honour).

His vision of how to understand ecosystems and undertake regional planning was so advanced that, as this blog notes, he predicted the areas unsuitable for urbanisation on Staten Island (dark shading on right). He was ignored and those areas match almost exactly the evacuation zones (in yellow left) at the time of Hurricane Sandy (see below).

But my favourite story about Ian McHarg relates to his involvement in the scoping work for Scotland’s third new town. McHarg worked in the Scottish Home and Health Department between 1950 and 1954 and in his 1996 autobiography, A Quest for Life, he writes,

One day I was summoned by the chief of the new towns section, an architect named Alex Wylie. East Kilbride and Glenrothes new towns were underway. There was considerable interest in yet another; both the cities of Glasgow and Edinburgh thought that a site near Cumbernauld, between these cities, should be investigated. However, it was likely that this new town would be a satellite of Glasgow and administered by her. Would I undertake the study?

I immediately visited Cumbernauld. It had the virtue of proximity to the major highway connecting Edinburgh and Glasgow. As at East Kilbride several years before, the wind howled, the rain drove horizontally, the whole site was awash. Morevoer, the farms were few and scattered. Anthropologists long ago had learned that sparse human settlement bespeaks adverse environments and impoverished resources. I spoke to several farmers whose opinions were united. It was a miserable place, wetter than most, with intractable mud, poor soil, a high water table, few trees, and those wind-pruned.

…….

The ideal site, in classical and Renaissance times, was a southeast-facing slope. That could not be found on the Glasgow-Edinburgh road nor on the south of the Clyde, but north of it were admirable classical sites, south and southeast-facing, at elevations above fog with beautiful views to the Firth of Clyde and, south, across the Clyde, to the Renfrewshire Hills. On the day I went there, the sun was shining; protected from the wind I lay in heather and exulted in the views. There was Dumbarton Rock, a volcanic cone with a ruined castle atop, ancient capital of Scotland, the gleaming Clyde, and , far out beyond the estuary, the Paps of Jura.

There was one problem; the site was steep. Now this had halted neither Rome, Siena, Frascati; nor San Francisco. This constraint must be transformed into an opportunity; we are not building for popes or cardinals. I recalled a project in Zurich, the Neubuhl, by Haeflie and Moser, where housing stepped down a steep slope and the flat roof of the lower house became terrace, balcony, and garden of the upper house. This would be the answer. Hanging gardens, stepped housing, each one having the merits of an attached single-family house, each with as much outdoor and indoor space, and the gardens entirely private. If the block was to be composed of four houses in depth, then the occupants at worst would walk down three flights or up one. In city where the commonest house form was a four-storey walk-up tenement, this was not a serious objection. So house plans developed, simple rectangles, L-shapes and T-shapes with different dimensions. They were all modular and could be fitted in various permutations, but all had uninterrupted views to south and east and all had private entrances and gardens. Open space equalled the building area. On the skyline, out of every view but overlooking the whole, were towers and slabs for older people, single households, and couples without children. The towers provided views of a landscape of gardens.

McHarg goes on to describe the detailed design, “extraordinary economies in construction costs” and the energy efficiency.

I submitted the plans to Alex Wylie, chief architect for new towns, who then arranged for me to present the material to the permanent undersecretary, Mr McGuiness, an Irishman with a Scottish accent. Wylie introduced the idea and gave his endorsment. I was asked to add my remarks. I spoke glowingly of the hanging gardens, the morning-golden windows, the beautiful views, access to workplaces on the Clyde, proximity to Glasgow, the beautiful landscape setting and, above all, of the greater economy of this scheme as compared with conventional bulding. There was a long silence.

“Well.” McGuiness said, “It is certainly revolutionary. There’s no doubt about that, and I am impressed by the arguments about its economy, but we can’t build this in Scotland. Why, they haven’t even built it in England yet.”

“Sir,” I said. “If the Scots have to wait for the bloody English to build something before we can, this is not the country for me. Good day, sir.”

That night, McHarg wrote to Dean Perkins of the University of Pennsylvania, and asked “Do you know of any opportunities which I might pursue in the United States? I find the professional life here is far from gratifying.”

He was immediately offered a position as an assistant professor to set up the Department of Landscape Architecture and the rest is history.

McHarg writes,

A small ceremony was held before my departure, at which time I was presented with a handsome briefcase. Kind words were said. I decided that this was not the occasion for criticism, thanked my colleagues, wished them well, and left.

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PS McHarg’s Wikipedea entry is very good account of his life.

Reply

How to untie the knot

The need for appropriate ownership and access regimes Toby Lloyd Land & Liberty Autumn/Winter 2002/3

Breaking the multinationals’ stranglehold on natural resources is vital if everyone is to benefit, but Toby Lloyd believes what is really needed are appropriate ownership and access regimes. Too often, this debate has been presented as a straight choice between private and shared property.

In 1968 the academic and author Garrett Hardin described ‘the tragedy of the commons’ like this: if everyone has a right to graze cattle on a village common it will inevitably suffer over-grazing, because it is in each individual’s interest to extract as much as possible from it, knowing the effects of overuse will be shared by everyone.

This argument has since been deployed to demonstrate private property’s merits and to justify the privatisation of socially held assets. With diminishing resources left under social ownership, attention has shifted to various ‘unowned’ resources. The atmosphere, oceans and genome are commons – assets in which we all have a notional shared ownership – and therefore, we are told, are susceptible to Hardin’s ‘tragedy’. The only solution, according to the new market fundamentalism, is to enclose the commons, creating private assets and incentives for owners to preserve them. In this way, it is argued, the ‘tragedy’ will be averted.

India’s neem tree offers a striking example of bio-piracy in action where marauding multinational corporations seek to plunder the knowledge of the global South. To market fundamentalists, the knowledge of neem’s uses is a common that should be privatised, allowing most efficient use. The flaw in the argument is that it fails to differentiate between open-access and what are often called common property systems.

Hardin’s hypothetical grazing land was an open-access system: no rules govern by whom or how much it is used. In reality, most pastures are types of shared property, owned by members of a limited group with the right to exclude non-members from using it.

No fences doesn’t mean no owners or no rules.

Complex shared property systems have evolved everywhere, governing the use of water, grazing lands, fish stocks and knowledge. Open access, common, limited shared and private property are different types of property regime – rules that govern rights of access, use, exchange and so on, and their corresponding obligations.

There are many different types of property regime and some are more suitable in certain circumstances. Open-access regimes are best for say public health information. National parks are a recognition of common property in national heritage. Shoes are best owned by individuals. More complex resources may need more sophisticated ownership regimes.

Perhaps in neem’s case common ownership combined with resource rental is best. Or perhaps a true open-access system nobody could privatise would ensure its benefits were spread as widely as possible. Yet efficient and extensive exploitation, whether privately or in common, is not the fundamental criterion. The regime must ensure the re-creation of the resource. For the products of labour, private property rewards creation. For fish in the ocean, or rain forests, that which sustains their re-creation, brings abundance.

We have to recognise common ownership as both real and valid, and resist the efforts of the bio-pirates.

www.caledonia.org.uk/commonweal