Tuesday, 30 September 2014

Scotland's links with the Commonwealth

Yesterday, I visited the exhibition "Scotland and the Commonwealth - 400 years in the making" at the Mitchell Library. This is showing until 4th October 2014. It explores early trade, slavery, missionaries, industry and emigration.

At the exhibition, there is a treasured ‘bible’ loaned to the city by Sonny Venkatrathnam who was a Robben Island prisoner at the same time as Nelson Mandela. The book is in fact a copy of the The Complete Works of Shakespeare which Sonny Venkatrathnam kept in his cell.

Poster for conference on slavery on 3rd October 2014.

It is Black History Month in October, and as part of the events programme, a conference on slavery is taking place at the Mitchell Library.

Useful link:

Wednesday, 24 September 2014

Future use of former Willowbank Primary School

This week, I met with residents to discuss the planning application with reference numbers 14/01839/DC and 14/01841/DC which propose 178 units on the site of former Willowbank Primary School, 2A Willowbank Crescent, Glasgow, G3 6NB.

The plans are seeking permission for student residential accommodation (sui generis) including demolition of detached outbuilding and substation, external alterations and repairs to listed building, erection of side and rear extensions to listed building, and erection of student residential accommodation block fronting onto West Princes Street, with associated landscaping, car parking and alterations to boundary treatments. Various concerns have been raised about the plans and these can be listed as;
  • Loss of Residential Amenity
With reference to City Plan 2: Development Policy - Residential (DEV2), the proposal will result in a development which does not protect a C listed building’s appearance, character and setting. This application is seeking the removal of natural habitat and wooded area which forms a visually attractive setting for the building and therefore, enhance the appearance of the access route at West Princes Street. This proposed development to replace trees and natural habitat with a 6-storey block will have a negative impact on the natural environment for the local community located within households along West Princes Street and the surrounding streets.

The proposed removal of the trees is contrary to planning policies as its location and nature does not respect the architectural heritage and the historic context of the area. It is my understanding that the location of the substation and the wooded area has never been built upon. The trees should be retained as a natural habitat and important feature of the pedestrian access to the building from West Princes Street.
  • Contrary to policy on Sustainable Design and Construction
The proposal has features which are not in keeping with the conservation area status. The 5-storey and 6-storey blocks are not acceptable as they will be overlooking the existing neighbours and the upper rooms will directly look in to the windows and backcourts of adjacent properties in Willowbank Crescent, Willowbank Street, West End Park Street and West Princes Street. The design of the new blocks will create a visual intrusion which diminishes the design quality and privacy of neighbouring tenemental properties.

Throughout the proposal, there is use of white brick and concrete material arrangements, vertical zinc bands and coloured cladding panels (red) which will not enhance the architecture of the neighbourhood. The proposed window design is not in keeping with traditional tenement windows adopted for neighbouring four storey tenement properties in the locality. Of particular concern is the replacement roof using zinc cladding and lightweight glass panels to rise above the existing eaves and parapet walls. This is not preserving the existing building design as required of any proposals for a listed building.
  • Contrary to DES3 Protecting and Enhancing our City’s Historic Environment
The proposed development does not maintain the character of the historic area of Woodlands. The whole site is within Woodlands Conservation Area and surrounded by listed buildings. The change of use of this C listed building and its surrounding grounds, which include trees and open space, would change the character of the building and its curtilage, which is supposed to be protected by the Conservation Area. The planned development fails to maintain the layout characteristic of the area, introducing a block structure within a tenemental neighbourhood.

Within the City Plan, DES 3 states there is a presumption in favour of protecting conservation areas from inappropriate new development. This proposal is not accepted as it will compromise the quality of a listed building and this neighbourhood of outstanding character bounded by Willowbank Crescent / Willowbank Street / West Princes Street / West End Park Street / Street and its environs.

The proposal will not comply with the general policy as it will compromise the character of the former Willowbank Primary School as the three new blocks will dominate this original property. This former School is a significant landmark within the Conservation area and is of importance to the heritage of the neighbourhood and its surroundings. The development brings three new blocks of a size, pattern, building depth and layout which is overdevelopment. This proposal is detrimental to the character of the area.

The character of local housing is one of bay-windowed tenements with deep undulating facades. The 5-storey and 6-storey blocks are of a design that is not sympathetic to the character of neighbouring buildings in this Conservation Area.
  • Contrary to Woodlands Conservation Area
With reference to City Plan 2: Development Policy - Residential (DEV2), the proposal will result in a development which does not protect a C listed building’s appearance, character and setting. The removal of roof to accommodate new additional storey will compromise the design and integrity of the building. The former Willowbank Primary School is a significant landmark within the Conservation area and is of importance to the heritage of the Woodlands.

With reference to the policy HER1, the proposal is not accepted as it will not improve the quality of a C listed building and areas of outstanding character of Willowbank Crescent, West Princes Street and its environs. This proposal will be visible from surrounding streets and impinge on the public streetscape to the detriment of character of the area.

Trees on West Princes Street to be removed by the proposal.
  • Contrary to policy protecting Natural Habitat, Trees, Woodlands and Hedgerows
This proposal is developing on an area of wooded landscape and there is no evidence of a Tree or Wildlife survey being carried out by the developer. The proposal will destroy and result in the loss of significant trees. The trees are protected by an existing tree preservation order (TPO) (see Woodlands Conservation Area), and are located on Council owned land, and are of significant ecological, recreational, historical, shelter or landscape value. The land currently acts as a sink for rainwater, if developed this advantage would be lost. The presumption is in favour of retaining such trees as part of the Council’s requirements under Climate Change legislation for protecting our natural resources for future generations and retaining our city’s biodiversity.
  • Traffic management and parking
The proposed development proposes to provides limited parking for the site. The plan takes no account of the effect of visitor parking, taxis drop-offs and deliveries on Willowbank Crescent and Willowbank Street. This will have an impact on the flow of traffic, causing severe strain on the local road network. The main flow of traffic to and from the development will go past a community garden and children’s play area. There will be a risk of road accidents, noise intrusion and general nuisance from additional vehicle movements within the neighbourhood due to the development.

This proposal should be refused due to its over development of the site and consequently, negative impact on the architectural heritage of the Woodlands Conservation area.

Sunday, 21 September 2014

The biggest global mobilisation on climate change

Today, at a People's March and Rally in Edinburgh, I supported the collective demand for ACTION, NOT WORDS from the next three big summits on climate change in New York (23rd September), Lima and Paris. The science is clear, climate change is the biggest threat of our time. Positive actions are needed to prevent dangerous climate change. 

Placards from the rally.

There have been climate rallies across the globe this weekend to put pressure on the UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and world leaders to work together at the Climate Summit 2014. There have to be bold steps taken and actions that will reduce emissions, strengthen climate resilience, and build political will for an effective legal agreement on climate targets in 2015.

Useful link:

Sunday, 14 September 2014

Continuing support needed for Byres Road

This week, I took part in discussions about the parking proposals for Byres Road. Businesses highlighted that they are very concerned about the plans for shared parking bays on Byres Road. There is a need for revised proposals to ensure that the parking on Byres Road is provided to prioritise customers and visitors to the area. Also, the parking needs of small businesses and their employees have to be taken in to account. Any parking arrangements have to be affordable for and supportive of businesses on Byres Road.  

Clark's Shoe Shop is currently vacant.

There is a general concern amongst businesses and residents alike about the loss of Clark's Shoe Shop and Boxwood from the street. The trading environment is still very competitive for shops due to online sales and the development of out of town shopping centres.

Byres Road provides a distinctive shopping experience. Innovative ideas are needed to attract customers and visitors, such as installation of electric plug-in sites and wider promotion of parking for car club members.

Tuesday, 9 September 2014

Plans for 4-8 Novar Drive

The planning application for a change of use of the building at 4-8 Novar Drive was agreed by the planning committee after a site visit and hearing on 2nd September.

At the hearing,  objections were raised about the plans. Reference was made to the planning history of the site. It is noted that the last application granted planning permission temporary use as an industrial unit and office which is class 5. It should be recognised any plans for this building should focus on its re-used for offices and industrial workshop as this is consistent with previous use. 

The proposal is for a conversion of the building in to class 1 shop which is seen to not preserve and enhance the character and appearance of the Glasgow West conservation area. The size and scale of the retail provision is expected to put pressure on existing retailers and may have a negative impact on the local economy, in particular other local shops within the Hyndland area.

Hyndland Road Shops, next to Old Station Park.

Currently,  residents are giving consideration to a proposal for a loading bay and changes to parking arrangements at Hyndland Road next to the site, which are part of the College Cycle Route. 

Useful Link:

College Cycle Route Traffic Regulation Orders - Comments by 13th October 2014

Glasgow's Wildlife Garden Festival 2014

Launched today, this festival from 9th - 30th September brings together 21 community organisations and 6 schools working in partnership with Glasgow City Council, Glasgow Life and Doors Open Day.

Events take place at Woodlands Community Garden.

A wide variety of activities are taking place including a film screening, workshops, walks, picnics, and canoeing. A programme is available at www.glasgowgardenfestival.org 

Monday, 8 September 2014

Growing Humanitarian Crisis

At a rally on Saturday 6th September, I spoke about the growing humanitarian crisis in the Middle East. There does appear to have been some progress to address the emerging situation at a meeting of the United Nations Human Rights Council on 1st September. The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights was requested to urgently dispatch a mission to Iraq.

An investigation will be carried out in to alleged violations and abuses of international human rights law committed by the so-called Islamic State (IS) in Iraq and the Levant and associated terrorist groups, and to establish the facts and circumstances of such abuses and violations, with a view to avoiding impunity and ensuring full accountability. A report on the mission's findings will be put to the Human Rights Council during its twenty-eighth session, and also the High Commissioner will provide an oral update during the twenty-seventh session of the Council at the end of September. 

In addition, Amnesty International has reported that members of the armed group calling itself the IS have launched a systematic campaign of ethnic cleansing in northern Iraq, carrying out war crimes, including mass summary killings and abductions, against ethnic and religious minorities. A new briefing, published on 2nd September presents a series of hair-raising details from survivors who describe how men and boys in the Sinjar region of northern Iraq were rounded up by IS fighters, bundled into pick-up trucks and taken to village outskirts to be massacred in groups or shot individually. These mass killings and abductions have succeeded in terrorizing communities in northern Iraq leading thousands to flee in fear for their lives. The fate of most of the hundreds of Yezidis abducted and held captive by the IS remains unknown. Many of those held by IS have been threatened with rape or sexual assault or pressured to convert to Islam. In some cases entire families have been abducted. 

The people of northern Iraq deserve to live free from persecution and without fearing for their lives.  There is an urgent need to support humanitarian charities that reach out to refugees, orphans and displaced persons. The Scottish and British governments can be encouraged to step up their support for those affected by the crises in Iraq and Syria by increasing humanitarian aid to the affected areas and by opening its door to refugees. The UK Government is called upon to reject any option of military intervention in the Middle East. 

Useful link:

UN Human Rights Council - http://www.ohchr.org/EN/HRBodies/HRC/Pages/HRCIndex.aspx

Amnesty International: Northern Iraq