Tuesday, 23 December 2014

Forever in our hearts

I heard the sirens from my office in the City Chambers, yesterday afternoon. It was hard to make sense of what was going on from a window overlooking George Square. I had a radio on and soon after,  news broke of the horrific tragedy on Queen Street. 

It has been a terrible shock. Today, I attended the service of condolence and reflection at the Tron St. George's Church and laid some flowers at the Gallery of Modern Art as a mark of respect.

I share with others my appreciation of the dedication and care provided by many people involved in responding to events as they unfolded. Thanks go to the Emergency services and Council staff who have assisted and continue to help people caught up in this awful accident.

My thoughts are with people who have suffered distress, injury or loss as a result of this tragedy. 

Sunday, 21 December 2014

Celebrating a creative heritage initiative

In the last week, I visited a special exhibition hosted by Queens Cross Housing Association, called "The Found(ry) Project". It brings together people from the Woodside / Maryhill areas, graduates of Glasgow School of Art, and a Glasgow University's Archaelogist.

The photos show some of the objects that were found within the local landscape next to the Forth and Clyde Canal. I was very impressed to find a display of intact milk bottles.

This project has involved people developing greater understanding of their heritage and new artworks have been produced. There have been a building up of people's confidence throughout the activities and new relationships have been established in the community.

Further details at: www.qcha.org.uk

Monday, 15 December 2014

Fracking and the Proposed City Development Plan (CDP) for Glasgow

In the last week, I have asked for an update on policies referring to Fracking within Glasgow's Planning framework. This follows on from previous correspondence with council officials seeking the inclusion of a policy on fracking. I have been advised as follows:-

"The Executive Committee approved the Proposed City Development Plan (CDP) for Glasgow in April 2014 and it was subject to an 8 week public representation period in May and June. An Examination into objections received to the Proposed CDP is likely to commence around the middle of 2015 and when this is concluded, and the Plan adopted, it will replace City Plan 2.

The Proposed CDP (http://www.glasgow.gov.uk/CHttpHandler.ashx?id=19258&p=0 – policy CDP5: Resource Management) makes specific reference to on-shore oil and gas extraction (which includes hydraulic fracturing or fracking), stating:

“Currently, two very small parts of the City at Milton and Robroyston fall within a Petroleum Exploration and Development Licence (PEDL) area. Given the size of these areas, and their proximity to communities (either existing or proposed), applications for extraction of on-shore oil and gas are unlikely to be acceptable in Glasgow. Should the PEDL licence areas be extended to include more of the City, then the Council will:
  1. require to be satisfied, on grounds of safety (given the extensive undermining affecting many parts of the City), that a proposal would be acceptable;
  2. require to be satisfied that the risks of adverse environmental and other impacts (such as those specified in the SPP and on Climate Change Act targets) have been fully addressed; and
  3. bring forward Supplementary Guidance which provides more detail on how points 1 and 2 will be assessed and planning applications determined.”
An objection to the Proposed Plan’s stance on on-shore oil and gas has been made. It contends that the policy should be reworded to bring it into line with Scottish Planning Policy (see below), and to exclude any suggestion that planning applications for extraction of oil and gas are unlikely to be acceptable within the Glasgow City boundary.

The objections to the Plan, and the proposed responses to them, will be considered by Committee in the Spring of 2015. 

Should Committee wish to amend policy CDP5 in accordance with the objection, then it is likely that such an amendment would be deemed significant, with the result that a new version of the Proposed Plan would need to be prepared and a new public representation period undertaken. Should Committee not agree with the objection, then the objection will be considered at the Examination into unresolved objections to the Plan. 

On the 28th July 2014, the UK Energy Minister invited applications for PED Licences for large areas of the UK, including all of Central Scotland (and Glasgow) not already subject to one. Applications for Licences were accepted up to 28th October 2014. It has not, yet, been announced whether further licences for exploration are to be granted for additional areas of the City. 

Moreover, the Smith Commission has recommended devolving the licensing of fracking to Scotland. Should this happen, then it is not clear whether this would mean the Scottish Government would determine the licenses applied for during the licensing round which closed on 28th October.

Should further licences be granted for Glasgow, then the Council will prepare Supplementary Guidance, to accompany the CDP, which will set out, in detail, how the impact of fracking proposals will be determined in the City, in line with SPP. The content of the Supplementary Guidance would require to be drafted to reflect the position set out in the adopted City Development Plan, including any modifications made as a result of the Examination."

I will keep in contact with constituents concerned about the development of this policy.

Protect Buchanan Street Steps

Along with thousands of others, I have written to the Planning Department of Glasgow City Council to strongly object to the applications to demolish the steps on Buchanan Street at the entrance to Glasgow Royal Concert Hall. The reasons to object to the removal of the Buchanan Street Steps include;

1)    The proposal will destroy nationally important civic space The Concert Hall Steps are located within a conservation area and the proposal for their demolition will have a negative impact on the quality of the public realm and historic fabric of the city centre. The steps must be preserved as they are significant landmark and are recognised as having national architectural importance as civic space. The steps alongside the statue of Donald Dewar provide an iconic feature to Glasgow's most prestigious street. The steps provide a unique view of the city centre with a wonderful vantage point looking down Buchanan Street.    The commanding views you get from the steps make them attractive to photographers and artists, as well as residents and visitors who just want to enjoy the view. 

 2)    Demolition will lead to the loss of a culturally significant feature. The plan to replace the steps with an atrium would not make Glasgow more attractive to residents. It will be unpopular with the public. A petition online against these plans has gained over 12,000 signatures. It would make the City Centre less inviting to come into.
There is a dearth of public spaces in Glasgow, and the steps are one of the best. The steps are a hub of cultural activity in a way that this atrium will not be. They are a magnet for buskers, charity events, and rallies. In this way, they have transcended their purpose as a simple flight of steps for people to go up and down. The steps are a public asset which inspires and promotes participation of the general public in the city's democratic and cultural activities. 

3)    The demolition will result in the loss of a visually attractive amenity within Buchanan Street. It would make the top of Buchanan Street look worse. The atrium looks bland and generic, and makes the top of Buchanan Street look like any town centre. The building of this atrium will not improve the quality of life for people living and working in the city. The City Centre is very polluted, and people coming into it need public spaces to sit away from the traffic. It's also a good meeting point and a place where people come to socialise and eat their lunch.

In conclusion, the Concert Hall steps have become something of a Glasgow institution. The plans to demolish the steps must be refused.

Council motion raised concerns about TTIP

The 'Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership' known as TTIP agreement is currently being negotiated between the European Union and the United States. A motion proposed by Green Councillors at a Full Council Meeting on 11th December highlighted the effect it will have on local public services. 

This trade deal has been referred to as the biggest bilateral trade deal in history, and has caused widespread controversy, not least because the deal could hand unprecedented powers to corporate investors at the expense of governments in the EU and US.

Among other proposals, the TTIP gives businesses the power to sue governments inclouding local authorities for profits they might have lost as a result of democratic decision-making on standards and safety.

This increases the potential threat of privatisation of public services including the NHS, and established regulations that protect workers, the environment and food would be undermined. US companies will even have the right to sue governments in secret courts if politicians try to reverse privatisation. TTIP is a huge threat to our high standards for the quality and safety of our food. Under the deal, food products allowed in the US, such as chemically-washed poultry, could be sold in the UK - even though it's been previously banned here. 

On both sides of the Atlantic, elected representatives are only allowed limited access to information about the negotiations. However, about 600 ‘corporate advisors’ have gained full access to the details. We are seeking transparency and a halt to negotiations both in the European Parliament and in the UK House of Commons. 

The following motion proposed by myself and Cllr Kieran Wild was agreed on a cross party basis:-

"Council is concerned about the potential implications of the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), a proposed free trade agreement between the European Union (EU) and the United States of America (USA). This arises due to the implications of TTIP with respect to the city of Glasgow, with regards to impacts on employment, wages, human rights and inequality, as well as environmental effects such as air pollution, food safety, water quality, carbon emissions, waste management, and environmental agreements. It could have implications across the public sector as it may leave public services wide open to further privatisation.

This Council resolves to request the Chief Executive to write to the Secretary of State for Business and Skill's expressing its deep concern at the developing TTIP, the secretiveness of its processes and its potential impact on public services, social and environmental protection, financial regulation and basic democratic oversight.

Further to this, Council requests assurances from the Secretary of State that the Government will seek full openess to TTIP position texts and that he will endeavour to ensure access to TTIP documentation and development by the UK public including concerned residents of Glasgow".

Bhopal 30th Anniversary

There was a wreath laid at the new Workers Memorial on Glasgow Green for the Victims of the Bhopal disaster on Wednesday 3rd December. This is the world's worst industrial accident which occurred on the night of 2–3 December 1984 at the Union Carbide India Limited (UCIL) pesticide plant in Bhopal, Madhya Pradesh. Over 500,000 people were exposed to toxic gases and other chemicals.

Nina Baker, Green Councillor and Representative from 
Shanti Bhavan Social and Cultural Centre

Cross party support with councillors from the SNP and Labour Groups, 
with much appreciated contribution from Ian Tasker of the STUC 

In 2015, we hope to develop activities in support of the Bhopal Medical Appeal. Details available from http://bhopal.org/