Sunday, November 27, 2005


Welcome to the New Venice

"It's a good looking scheme for what is, at present, a disaster zone. Good stuff. Will be very dominant on the hill too, weird contrast next to the power station! Unfortunately I doubt it'll be big enough to overpower the council blocks in Cowcaddens."

This is what passes for a public debate on the subject of 'little venice'. There is much talk about strategic masterplans, regeneration, and 'the image of the city' that this building project will project, along with sunny images of futuristic buildings coupled with happy smiling people, but it is notable that amongst the talk about how house prices in Spiers Wharf - the gated community of 149 houses and offices on the other side of the canal from the St George's Estate - will surely rise there is absolutely no mention of how the vast majority of people who live in this area will benefit from them.

In fact it is telling that whenever the publishers of glowing reports and articles discuss 'New Rotterdam Wharf', and 'New Dundas Wharf' in the context of those who live in this area currently it is partly in a fearful tone. We are something to be controlled and moved on. Our areas, the communities we live in, are eyesores that need to be 'dealt with' and any possible 'benefit' from this scheme can only be construed as something that moves significant 'new people' into the area, rather than being developed as something that improves the lot of the ordinary people who actually already live in our communities.

A MASTERPLAN to transform the Forth and Clyde Canal in Glasgow into a "Little Venice" has been given the go-ahead. [...] However, the report makes no secret of potential problems - notably security issues because of a perceived threat from yobs along the canalside in areas such as Maryhill.

Indeed even the objections lodged to the scheme have been couched in the adverse effects perceived to the folk in the Spiers Wharf flats (who as we've said constitute a tiny minority of this region's tens of thousands strong population. Little or nothing has been made of the fact that while Glasgow City Council is prepared to lavish money in a PFI scheme to build hundreds of £200,000+ luxury flats money cannot be found by the authorities to re-open our community centre in Raglan Street, our provide decent play areas for our kids.

In our communities we've seen massive underspends (over 50% in the South Maryhill LHO area - which covers the St. George's Estate - and over two thirds for Hamiltonhill LHO).

If the £100 million of investment that the council is keen to 'help out' with was to be used to regenerate our area for the people who live there I'm sure this plan would have no detractors. However, having spoken to one of the architects behind this plan, in the near secret 'public consultation' it became abuntantly clear that this scheme is in no way going to benefit locals. When I asked this archect whether any of his 'warehouses' would have flats which were available to rent, he said no. He went on further to say that he had been speaking to 'the key partners in social housing', and 'to the GHA' and he had been told that "nobody wants to live in social housing", so therefore his plans didn't incorporate any.

So what we have is the authorities on one hand sponsoring a development for the super-affluent, which will need to be 'protected' from the wilds of Maryhill, and on the other a pre-existing community, that has seen massive neglect over many years both under the council, and now under their pals at the GHA, which stands to gain exactly nothing, apart from an encroaching population. A population that is to some extent frightened by the existing community, and which will not interact positively with it, and one which will need to import its goods and services because its 'needs' are not taken care of by what serves the current community.

This is effectively a yuppy colonisation, and it will result in a change in the character of our area for the worse, making it harder for the people of our communities to afford to live in them. It's bad news and it needs to be stopped. It is also deeply ominous that a time when all this luxury flat building is taking place in our community the flats that we live in - which we know the GHA considers to be under 'Options Appraisal', where they may choose to knock them down at any point between now and 15-20 years down the line, depending on their own undisclosed priorities - are seeing massive underinvestment.

Does the GHA know something we don't?

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