Tuesday, 31 May 2011

Proposed mobile phone mast would be an eyesore

A strong community campaign to stop the installation of a mobile phone mast at St. Bride's Church, in Hyndland has successfully developed.

There are existing mobile phone mast stations currently
serving Hyndland less than 500 metres from the church, in Linfern Road.

A planning application is proposed for installation of replica flagpole concealing three antennae to bell tower and ancillary meter cabinet at tower base of a listed church. This proposal is Contrary to Planning Policy DES 3 for Protecting and Enhancing the City's Historic Environment and Planning Policy EN6 for protecting Biodiversity. 

Over 350 planning objections have been submitted and we await the outcome of the planning process over the next 3 months.

Update on 8th November 2011:-

The planning appeal has not been successful and the reporter has refused the planning permission. The full decision notice is now online at http://www.dpea.scotland.gov.uk/Documents/qJ13793/J206540.pdf

What is the future of coffee shops on our high streets?

A debate has sprung up about coffee shops. Do we have too much caffeine in our lives? When is the tipping point for the West End cafe culture? Can you have too many cafes in the Byres Road area?

Well, it would seem that the threat to a vibrant local cafe scene comes when the smaller independent outlets are not able to compete with the multi-nationals. If this happens, the high street can take on the appearance of a clone town. The main suppliers of coffee will generally be the same whichever town or city you live in. 

A distinctive cafe culture developed by independent entrepreneurs has the potential to wither away especially in the current economic climate. 

There are a number of vacant shop units within Byres Road Town Centre and currently, interest is being expressed in extending the provision of cafes. One premises to highlight is the former clothing and sports shop on Great George Street. It is proposed for a new cafe accommodating 15 tables internally. Local independent retailers and cafes are fearful of the implications of this development for their business.

Vacant shop unit at 170-174 Great George Street

I would like to see this shop unit retained use as Class 1 retail only. Another clothes shop would be preferable. We must protect and promote Byres Road town centre and local independent shops. Any proposals have to support the policies of City Plan 2, SC2 - Policy objectives for Tier  1 and 2 Town Centres, as well as, SC7 - Protection and promotion of local shopping centres and local shops.

In the Byres Road Town Centre, the proportion of ground floor units operating within a use class other than Class 1 shops exceeds the 20% total for a Tier 2 centre and this proposal for change of use cannot be considered favourably.

Useful links:

City Plan 2 - http://www.glasgow.gov.uk/en/Business/CityPlan/

Clone Town Britain 2010 - http://www.neweconomics.org/press-releases/clone-town-britain-2010-high-street-diversity-still-on-endangered-list

Update on 23rd July 2011: The application has been withdrawn and refused.

Sunday, 22 May 2011

Support given to Braid Square's Football Pitches

There are two red blaes football pitches surrounded by grassland in the Braid Square area of Woodside. They are the largest area of designated open space in the Hillhead Ward.

The community has recognised the need to protect this land for play, sports, dog walking and visual amenity.

One of the football pitches looking over to Oakgrove Primary.

There is evidence from across local authorities that football pitches are undervalued. Every effort is needed to ensure that these pitches are maintained and protected for community use over the long term.

The second football pitch next to M8.

By working closely with local organisations and the National Playing Fields Association, I will support plans to improve the football pitches and encourage football activities involving a range of age groups. There is a need to increase awareness of the health, social, environmental and economic benefits of playing fields.

Useful links:

Study: Football provides health benefits for all - http://www.fifa.com/aboutfifa/federation/news/newsid=589317.html

National Playing Fields Association - www.fieldsintrust.org

Motorway City

Today, there has been a charity event on the latest motorway built through our city - the M74 Extension. 

For one day only, the new stretch of motorway has been used by cyclists, walkers and runners to fundraise for good causes. I wish the amount spent on this motorway extension had been invested in public transport, as well as cycling and walking improvements, and then, we could really claim to be making progress, and becoming a healthier place to live.

I was a member of JAM74 which objected to the new M74 Extension. My views have not changed and I continue to reject the proposition that this motorway will bring any benefits to Glasgow. It will generate more traffic, move jobs out of the city, create a physical barrier between local communities, and worse health issues.  This is backed up by the conclusions of the report from the Public Local Inquiry held in to the M74 Extension.

On a daily basis, I live in the shadow of the M8 which drives through the heart of the City. This area is a desolate zone which can be oppressive and unsafe environment.

Since becoming a local councillor, I have called for and supported improvements to the underpass beneath the M8.

Cycle and walking route underneath the M8 at New City Road.

The pigeon problem has been alleviated by the fitting of mesh by Amey to prevent them perching in the underpass.

Furthermore, the regular flooding has been cleared with a new drainage system being installed by Glasgow City Council.

Cycle and walking route with improved drainage.

Now, it is possible to make the journey on foot or bike without the stench of pigeon droppings and the need to navigate large pools of water.

I hope that the people who use it to get to and from the city centre are finding it cleaner and safer to use.

Useful Links:
Report on Public Inquiry in to M74 extension by Richard Hickman - http://www.scotland.gov.uk/Publications/2005/03/20752/53465

Restoring our public artworks

Art in public spaces is enjoyed by many residents in the West End. It can be the transport-themed mural covering the wall at Kelvinbridge, the Stewart Memorial Fountain in Kelvingrove Park that invites us to jump and splash and laugh, or the Lobey Dossier statue on Woodlands Road which draws our eyes and thoughts away from day-to-day cares.

Public art can convey a community's joy or sorrow, its history or beliefs or visions for the future.

Residents have highlighted their support for the preservation of a concrete crocodile sculpture in Braid Square, in Woodside. It has to be saved as part of the refurbishment of play spaces in the area due to the local outcry.

Crocodile next to Woodside Leisure Centre

The crocodile is valued as part of the community's identity, having survived the threat of vandals, and has to be retained.

Another local landmark which requires restoration is St. George, his Horse and the Dragon at the junction of St. George's Road and Maryhill Road. This was designed by Charles Benham Grassby for the St Georges's Co-operative Society tenement in Gladstone Road, off St George's Road (1897, dem. 1985). The St George group was rescued from its building in 1985, when it was about to be demolished, and was re-erected by the Co-op at St George's Cross as a public monument in 1988.

St. George Group Statue and Fence

It is really worth discovering and exploring the sculptural and architectural treasures of Glasgow. There is a wonderful collection from the 'golden age' of the Victorian and Edwardian eras, as well as a excellent examples from more recent times.

Useful links
Crocodile - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Crocodile
Crocodiles of the world - http://www.crocodilesoftheworld.co.uk/
Glasgow: City of Sculpture - http://www.glasgowsculpture.com/

Friday, 13 May 2011

Keep on running!

I got to the start line for the Women's 10K on 8th May in time for the collective warm up session and whilst dampness kept us cool, rainfall stayed away during the run.

The scene of many women pounding the streets is a great occasion. My favourite part of the run, but the most demanding, is through Pollok Park. The ancient woodland is an amazing sight. The hilly roadway through the park definately gets my heart beating.

I think this is my 9th year of running in the 10K. It was not my personal best but I made a good effort, finishing in 1 hour 17 minutes.

A work colleague persuaded me to give it a go many years ago and I have never looked back since!

I don't see myself as a fitness fantastic but I wouldn't miss my regular jogs around Kelvinbridge or Glasgow Green. You will find me out and about in my sports gear on a Saturday or Sunday morning.

Glasgow's political colour changes

A week has passed since the elections for the Scottish Parliament and our new MSPs are now looking forward to the next 5 years. Referring to a newspaper pullout showing the State of the Nation 2011, there is a clear visual representation of SNP sweeping to power across the land. A major shift has taken place in our political life with constituency seats in our industrial heartlands such as Glasgow, having been won over by the Nationalists for the first time.

Photo of Garden Bell, Royal Botanic Gardens in Edinburgh.

I hope this momentuous election result brings about progressive change which improves our democracy and help to build up interest in grassroots political activity.

Photo from Peace March, Aldermaston.

The vote turnout was below 50% across Glasgow and more will need to be done to convince people it is worthwhile making their cross on the ballot papers. I will support and encourage more residents to get involved in campaigning, and participating in local community activity. This will be needed in the face of public sector cuts, and to bring people together to help in sustaining safer local neighbourhoods and supporting community development.

In terms of the Scottish Green Party's fortunes, I am very glad that Green MSPs continue to represent Glasgow and the Lothians. Alison Johnstone and Patrick Harvie are vital opposition members who will be required to hold the SNP Government to account. The work of the Scottish Greens will continue as we develop membership, recruit activists, and seek to increase our influence at all levels of government.

Cooperating with The Windy City

Glasgow is strengthening its links with Chicago and this was endorsed in a motion passed by elected members for Glasgow City Council on 12th May.

There are opportunities to promote friendships and collaborations between Glasgow and Chicago in support of Sustainability and Design. I believe that there could be sharing of expertise in terms of planning and design of our public realm, to support cycling but also improve our urban landscape generally.

Photo of a back lane in Woodlands

Glasgow has an ongoing issue about how to support, enhance, and maintain its historic back lanes. In Chicago, they have back alleyways which have received City-led investment. The greening of the alleyways have created walkways, recreation spaces and community gardens.

Over 80 alleyways have been resurfaced in the past two years across Chicago. The Department of Transportation has developed a Green Alley Handbook, providing examples of alley makeovers to suit a variety of sites, plus guidance for homeowners to help reduce rainwater runoff including planting gardens, installing more absorbant surfaces and green roofs.

I think it would be helpful for Glasgow to develop specific resources such as a Green Lanes Handbook to support the ongoing improvements needed in back lanes across the city.  

A photo of Woodland's Community Garden

Chicago has supported a network of community gardens and it could be inspirational for Glasgow's community gardeners to link with Chicago's Greening Network.

Useful Links:

Chicago's Greening Network - http://greennetchicago.org/

Wednesday, 4 May 2011

Tinderbox Conditions

There has been shocking news about wildfire ravaging woodlands in various parts of Scotland and beyond. It's been the hottest April on record. Climate action to protect our nature assets seems more urgent than ever.

Greens are committed to meeting Scotland’s emissions targets through domestic effort, without the use of carbon credits, and we’ll ensure public sector emission cuts are in line with the targets in the Climate Change Act. Existing annual targets are too weak, and we back 4.5% annual reductions.

Photo from Climate March, Glasgow.

It is essential to build on the success of the Climate Challenge Fund by continuing to support community projects, with  additional tiers of support including a small grants scheme with minimal bureaucracy, and a ‘partnering’ system so successful projects can help build capacity in other communities. The fund would be expanded to £25m a year.

There is also a need to begin to develop a consumption based approach to calculating Scotland’s real contribution to climate change, taking proper account of the emissions associated with the goods and services this country imports. This is complex work and would take several years to complete. We’ll build on the limited carbon assessment of Scotland’s budget to enable transparent scrutiny of budget documents in relation to carbon costs. We will also conduct individual carbon assessments across public sector spending and policies.

Benefits of eco-friendly vintage fashion

I enjoy a walkabout in the West End, especially on a sunny day. There is a wide range of charity shops and vintage fashion retailers to look round over the course of an afternoon. It seems that vintage shopping has developed a following over recent years. I have kept up my interest in second hand clothing and household goods since my student days. The chance of finding a special, one-off item makes it worthwhile rummaging through many clothes rails.

Photo of furniture and househould recycling shop, Great Western Road.

Vintage outfits are good for the planet. We cannot sustain the throw away culture that cheap fashion outlets are promoting. It is clear that low cost clothing manufacture is generating harmful carbon emissions and encouraging wasteful lifestyles. There is evidence that only 16% of unwanted clothing in the UK is recycled. The clothing going to landfill has soared and annually, 1.2 million tones ends up in landfill.

The global market for fashion has resulted in increased "clothes miles" from use of resources, transportation, and energy. The human cost of the fashion industry  has to be taken in account. Many clothing factory workers in developing countries are poorly paid and living in poverty.

Photo of recycled fashion on display at a charity shop, Great Western Road.

What is the answer?  Invest in better quality recycled or vintage fashion. You will be re-using garments that most likely would have gone to landfill and also, actively helping the environment. If you buy new clothing, it is best to buy locally manufactured or fair trade labels.

Sunday, 1 May 2011

May Day Greetings

The May Day in Glasgow brought together trade unionists and campaigners to celebrate the achievements of the Workers, and to stand up together against public sector cuts. The messages from the speakers at the rally were that we must defend against the cuts and privatisation. The need for restructuring of the tax system so big business and the wealthy pay more was highlighted.

In 1978, May Day was only enshrined in law as an extra day's holiday for all workers in the UK. It remains a long standing demand of organised labour movement and is closely associated with the International Workers Day. In 80 countries across the world the day is a holiday in law. Each year there are demonstrations and rallies in support of workers across the world.

The UK Government is threatening to replace it with another holiday in England and Wales. The decisions on bank holidays are devolved matters. Currently, there is an option to celebrate St. George's Day in England, St. David's Day in Wales, or the anniversary of the bloody battle of Trafalgar on 21 October. There is a coordinated effort amongst trade unionists to ensure that we keep the May Day flag flying across the UK.

During the rally, films were shown and the experience of cuts in benefits on disabled people was illustrated through "The Broadest Shoulders", featuring disabled people protesting at a recent conference for the Liberal Democrats.

I give my support for UK action to increase corporate transparency and tackle tax avoidance including through the use of criminal sanctions. I believe in the campaign for the introduction of a ‘Robin Hood Tax’ on financial transactions that could raise billions of pounds in revenue globally.

Useful Links:

The broadest shoulders? - How cuts in benefits will affect disabled people - www.vimeo.com/channels/camcorderguerillas