John’s Contribution To The Debate On Regeneration Delivery

29 May 2014

John Mason in Holyrood debate 

John recently delivered a speech on the subject of urban regeneration in Scotland. You can find his contribution below. 



John Mason (Glasgow Shettleston) (SNP): I very much welcome the report and the opportunity to speak in the debate, although I am not a member of the Local Government and Regeneration Committee.

It is clear that regeneration is needed in a number of parts of Scotland, and we should welcome the good work that is going on. I am particularly pleased that there is joint working with European funds in many cases. The European Union may not be perfect, but we should certainly do all that we can to benefit from it.

I am glad that the Government has emphasised the importance of housing. Housing is not the only means of physical regeneration, but it is certainly one of the most important factors.

The importance of anchor organisations, which are referred to in paragraphs 232 to 236 of the report, is a key point. One of the disadvantages for some of our less well-off communities is their lack of access to professional expertise, which has sometimes meant that applications for lottery funding have been more successful in the better-off areas. The report refers to housing associations as anchor organisations in that regard. I totally agree that they can be key anchor organisations that combine local involvement and professional expertise.

I take the point that Glasgow Housing Association made that we probably want to be flexible in how we define anchor organisations. It is also perhaps worth mentioning in passing that both Glasgow City Council and GHA are very big and have a tendency at times to be remote from their communities. Therefore, if we are looking at subsidiarity and pushing power down in Glasgow, that certainly needs to be below Glasgow City Council and Glasgow Housing Association level.

I will mention some of the challenges that we face later, but we can also be positive about a lot of the work that has been going on, especially in the east end of Glasgow. The Commonwealth games have provided a tremendous focus for regeneration in general, but Clyde Gateway is distinct from that, and we have seen huge improvements through its work.

Just clearing up contaminated land is tremendously important, although it does not always have the glamour or immediate above-ground impact of a new building or bridge. Around Bridgeton cross, there have been massive changes recently. The cross itself has benefited from public realm works, and right on the cross is the Olympia building, which has been virtually rebuilt. A minimal part of it has been kept, albeit the best part.

One of the key things in that building is the library that is on the ground floor. It is now much more visible and attractive than where the library was previously, when it was tucked away along a narrow road. Libraries are hugely important if we want to improve access to information technology for the general population as well as access to books. We need to get people into buildings where they can see them, use them and be comfortable around them. To be fair to Glasgow Life, which is the culture and leisure wing of Glasgow City Council, that has been happening around the city and it has certainly happened in Bridgeton itself.

Another development that is very close to Bridgeton cross is the Eastgate office development, which is within walking distance of the cross. That is now the home of Community Safety Glasgow, which used to be based in the city centre. We can sometimes assume that such large offices and headquarters should be in the city centre, but if we are serious about spreading investment and jobs around our cities, we need to look at the possibility of relocating offices away from city centres and putting them into some of the more challenging areas.

Relocated offices obviously need links to public transport, and Bridgeton cross has a station right at its heart. The station was already well used before it was upgraded, but the upgrading means that it is now an easy route for new workers who have to come into the area to work in offices. It is only a few minutes on the train from Glasgow city centre.

I obviously welcome the earlier announcement—the minister repeated it—about extra funding that will go especially to make a difference to walking and cycle routes in the area. Those who know the area between Shawfield in South Lanarkshire and the east end of Glasgow will know that there were large areas that nobody ever went to, crossed, or visited, particularly the Cuningar loop just inside South Lanarkshire.

On a slightly lighter note, among the new office developments there are opportunities for smaller businesses to open offices, and there are often shops on the ground floors of those office buildings. One of those recent new shops is an underwear shop, and the health secretary was at the opening of it. However, there is a more serious aspect to that particular local business because it caters for folk who have had colostomies and others with similar conditions and gives them the opportunity to get underwear that is attractive and appropriate to their condition.

As I have said, there are challenges and the committee’s report is realistic about them. A number of members have touched on the question of community involvement. I note that the report emphasises community involvement, which is obviously welcome, but it can be a problem if there is less of a sense of community, as I think there is in many of our areas. My experience is that fewer people are attending community councils, tenants associations, churches and other community organisations. Sometimes one or two people are appointed or self-appointed, but do they really represent the wider community? That issue came up on page 149 of the report about the committee’s visit to Glasgow.

If a community is so run down that there are relatively few people left in it—an example of that is Dalmarnock in my constituency—and we need to get a lot more people to move into the area and to plan for that, there is a related challenge. Will the existing community be swamped by what is hoped for or planned to happen in future?

How much to spend on particular projects is another challenge. If we are trying to turn an area around, do we spend just enough to make it acceptable or do we go over and above that and spend extra in the hope that we will have a bigger impact? That is tricky. For example, residents in the Clyde Gateway area have asked whether £11 million was too much to spend on a little-used railway station at Dalmarnock and questioned whether it will give a big boost to the area.

Boundaries are another issue. Sometimes people within a boundary get a lot of money thrown at them when those just outside the boundary get no money whatsoever.

Overall, I am enthusiastic about regeneration in the east end of Glasgow. The public sector correctly takes the lead, but we need the private sector to follow.




If you are interested in reading the entire debate you can find it through the following link;