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New infrastructure and place for Glasgow to tackle climate change

Image above: the gold aluminium and glazed facade of BDP's new entrance to Queen Street Station for Network Rail in Glasgow has helped modernise the historic building and is part of a long term plan to provide greener transport options.

Future Cities Forum visited Glasgow this week to look at BDP's new Queen Street Station development and assess the much talked about priorities for improving place in the city. Emerging from the station, we walked round George Square, into the Museum of Modern Art (housed in the Victorian former Exchange building), viewed Glasgow Central Station and followed a circular route up to Glasgow School of Art, on past the new £90 million James McCune Smith Learning Hub at the University of Glasgow and the redevelopment of the Western Infirmary site, past Kelvingrove Museum, then back down Sauchiehall Street to Queen Street Station.

Above: Inside the new James McCune Smith Learning Hub at the University of Glasgow (HLM Architects)

The city retains fine Georgian and Victorian terraced housing and buildings from the first Industrial Age. Glasgow's modern art gallery is a strong example with cafes nestling around its sides. There are significant R&D investment sites in the city too, such as the University of Glasgow's Campus £1 billion development programme - including the 14 acre site of the former Western Infirmary to build a mix of modern research, teaching and public spaces. The new campus will be sited at the heart of the city's cultural quarter, creating a public route between the University and the Kelvingrove, Kelvinhall and the Riverside museums.

Above image: outside the Gallery of Modern Art, Royal Exchange Square Glasgow

Susan Deighan, Deputy Chief Executive of Glasgow Life (which runs seven of the major museums) told Future Cities Forum about the need to create sustainable transport connections to art collections outside the city such as The Burrell which has just re-opened after major renovations:

'The Burrell is set in a large and green space off the motorway and hosting the world's biggest conference COP 26 in Glasgow, we have been working on sustainability for some years in preparation. Glasgow has been on the world global destination sustainability index since 2016 - and we are now 4th in the world. The city has a net zero target by 2030, so sustainability and low carbon design was all part of project for the re-invention of The Burrell.

'We have received just over £68 million in investment, so naturally some of that money has gone into thinking about how you get to The Burrell which stands in a large park. We have had over million visitors a year to the park and it is connected by really good public transport with signage at train stations. We are now working on sustainable transport when inside the park We have had to close the park to cars since during the pandemic everyone was driving into it and now creating good way finding, electric vehicle charging points, ways to separate out pedestrians and cyclists from cars and allowing electric bikes in to the space along with wider woodland management.'

On further transport initiatives, BDP's new Queen Street Station renovations have been warmly received as a successful and important new gateway to the city. Consultations have been taking place around the second Strategic Transport Projects Review (STPR2) to make transport in Scotland more sustainable. The Scottish Government's blueprint for future transport investment to support people to make better, more informed decisions on how they travel, has 'Clyde Metro' as one of its stand-out recommendations.

Its hoped that investment over the next two decades will play a key role in tackling climate change, reduce inequalities and improve health and wellbeing.

There have been discussions about a Clyde Metro linking Glasgow Central Station (above) with Queen Street Station - and poorly serviced communities across the city

Clyde Metro represents a multi-billion investment which could improve connections for over 1.5 million people to employment, education and health services in and around the Glasgow City Region. It would target areas where connections are currently poor, including places where there is deprivation. The system it is suggested would help to deliver environmental benefits and improve public transport journey times and journey time reliability, making sustainable travel options more attractive.

Cllr Susan Aitkin, Leader of Glasgow City Council and Chair of the Glasgow City Region City Deal Cabinet said:

'Over the past several decades, modern rapid transit systems like Metro are what Glasgow's comparator cities across the globe have been busy constructing. We cannot continue to be left behind. More than arguably any other single intervention, Clyde Metro can help deliver a vibrant, prosperous, inclusive and sustainable city region, a transport system fit for our international standing and ambitions.'

Funding from the Scottish and UK Governments will potentially lead to greater improvements for the city this year. The pandemic has meant delays to some current projects, but it is hoped these will pick up over the coming months. The Avenues project, for example, is underway and due for completion over the year.

The network of pedestrian and cycle priority routes with the planting of trees - supported by an investment of £115 million -will continue to be carried out next to Sauchiehall Street - with similar improvements on surrounding streets such as Argyle Street West and Rose Street.

Glasgow City Council also wants to transform George Square as part of the city centre overhaul. Construction of the scheme is expected to start in 2023 and is home to some of the city's best known buildings including the 1889 Beaux-Arts style City Chambers and a statue of Sir Walter Scott.

Below - current view of George's Square, Glasgow, visited by Future Cities Forum co-founder Matthew Locke

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