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Port Glasgow regeneration plans put under the spotlight

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October 31 2012

Port Glasgow regeneration plans put under the spotlight
Clune Park, an area of traditional tenement housing in Port Glasgow scheduled for demolition has clearance is heralded as an opportunity for a fresh start but are we repeating the mistakes of the seventies? Or is this the only way forward for a town running out of options?

We take a closer look at the rationale behind the plans in this quarter’s issue of Urban Realm but here Willie Miller of WMUD, offers his thoughts.

“For me the fundamental questions around the Clune Park area are to do with the community interest (or perhaps the lack of it) and the waste of resources and energy associated with demolishing the buildings.

“It seems that the idea of demolishing the area is a foregone conclusion and that few seem to care what happens.  Perhaps I’m not looking in the right places but there seems to be little opposition to this and hardly any community ambition to turn the area into something else, either through another refurbishment or through demolition and rebuilding. If that is the case and the community don’t really care about the future of the area that sends out a disturbing message not just about the current state of the area but about its future in whatever form that might take.

“In some ways, the area represents an old way of building which many could feel sentimental about - good solid stone buildings, the social closes, the overlooked safe back gardens, the cul-de-sac streets where children can play without road safety issues. Yet it isn’t really like that at all and it certainly isn’t about design or aesthetics. It is detached from the surrounding area, beside a noisy trunk road with all manner of social issues.

“If there isn’t the desire or pressure to deal with the issues around the current community or any sort of drive from within the area to change it then it is a lost cause. The buildings themselves do represent energy and a resource but they also represent a failure by the Council to manage this resource properly coupled with a more general failure of society and its institutions to support the existing community and encourage it to act differently.”
A handful of residents still cling on to their tenancies
A handful of residents still cling on to their tenancies
Clune Park has reached the end of the road
Clune Park has reached the end of the road

Clune Park is no stairway to heaven
Clune Park is no stairway to heaven
Many properties are privately rented and fall below habitable standards
Many properties are privately rented and fall below habitable standards

Public buildings, once a statement of local civic pride, lie in ruin
Public buildings, once a statement of local civic pride, lie in ruin
Recent landscpaing works have proved fruitless
Recent landscpaing works have proved fruitless

Some residents feel that they have been left hung out to dry
Some residents feel that they have been left hung out to dry

11 Comments

Willie Rutherglen
#1 Posted by Willie Rutherglen on 31 Oct 2012 at 12:26 PM
Fair point - well made. Too often these consultation exercises ignore those who will have to live with the consequences.
wonky
#2 Posted by wonky on 31 Oct 2012 at 14:04 PM
The cynic in me thinks that much of these regeneration projects are a gravy train for a few- hand picked architects, building firms, councillors etc- and on a deeper level a cultural hangover of modernist utopian idealism.
A built environment like the above has an "organic atmosphere" intrinsic to the fabric of its historicity, that is impossible to fabricate or imitate- every time we demolish and rebuild we lose something unique to place. That may be an ineffable quality but it is something we all know intimately- but do town planners, officials and bombastic architects recognise such a subtle yet valued phenomenon?
Neil C
#3 Posted by Neil C on 31 Oct 2012 at 14:49 PM
Good article. Structurally and architecturally, these buildings look quite respectable, and their demise is due to neglect and vandalism rather than any obvious design flaws. It's a waste of resources to simply construct new buildings, because the current tenants will cause the current issues to recur very quickly, and the whole thing will be a complete waste of time and money. Still, at least it'll make the shareholders of whichever company is appointed to build lots of "exciting" new homes "fit for the future" in this "fast-changing regeneration area" happy.
Egbert
#4 Posted by Egbert on 31 Oct 2012 at 15:21 PM
#2 I don't think any architects or councillors are getting rich off projects like these - rather it's the developer/contractors who are handed highly preferential terms to acquire and develop these schemes with generous public subsidies to 'enable' (ie. flatten) the sites, because we're repeatedly told this is the only way we can afford to fund 'regeneration' these days. Witness the idiocy of the Pathfinder projects down south, where hundreds of acres of decent if neglected urban housing have been obliterated at the taxpayers' expense only for no private sector 'partner' to be interested in taking on the sites. Surely it would be a huge mistake to repeat that here.
Egbert
#5 Posted by Egbert on 31 Oct 2012 at 15:29 PM
#3 I wouldn't blame the tenants too much either - the area does look pretty isolated from the rest of Port Glasgow with a series of vastly over-engineered roads slicing through (and by the looks of it having taken out a long range of tenements which would have enclosed the back courts and provided some main street activity to the north side - perhaps someone who knows the history can confirm?). Stuck between the dual carriageway and hillside it looks like a bit of a dead end - unsurprising if demand is low and private landlords resort to bringing in problem tenants to fill the voids. What the area is crying out for is surely better planning to reconnect to the town and tame/ideally re-route the roads to improve the immediate environment. Will be interesting to see if there's any appetite to do so.
Rem Koolbag
#6 Posted by Rem Koolbag on 31 Oct 2012 at 16:32 PM
Spot on Egbert - yet again, roads design crippling a city. Why is this issue not tackled more forcefully?

As for the point about the problem tenants causing the problems in these existing blocks, or in ones built to replace them - absolutely true, although the problem landlords should not be let off lightly either as they have just as great, if not greater scope for devastating an area.
Chris
#7 Posted by Chris on 31 Oct 2012 at 22:52 PM
This area was once a popular first step on the property ladder for young couples, my own parents (and my grandparents before them) included. It went downhill because of corrupt landlords leasing the flats to the dregs of society, and it has remained the town's most notorious neighbourhood ever since.
Robin
#8 Posted by Robin on 1 Nov 2012 at 11:10 AM
I agree with Neil C #3 the quality of the buildings will not be matched by anything built to todays standards and the isolation issues with the site will still exist. Dare I say it but is there a case in the current economic climate for managed decline. Port Glasgow along with many others grew to support booming industries which have now declined. Is there a case for the town to recede in size as opposed to pumping more funding in to prop it up. Consideration needs to be given to the right places to invest in.
Pam
#9 Posted by Pam on 1 Nov 2012 at 13:08 PM
This area has too long been run down and a dumping ground for DSS rental tenants with no where else to go. Demolition is a fantastic opportunity to build something new & replace what's there with a new neighbourhood & community proud of where they live, on the back of major regenration in Port Glasgow. I lived in Clune Park street as a baby, and from the mid-90's onwards the area slowly became more populated with drug dealers & addicts. As an Architect, proud to be from Port Glasgow, I think demolition is the only way & am delighted that Port Glasgow's community is getting the regeneration it deserves.
Neil C
#10 Posted by Neil C on 1 Nov 2012 at 15:45 PM
#9 - Pam, your sentiments are absolutely laudable. But if the only people still living in Clune Park today are the DSS rental tenants, who will live there tomorrow when they've been moved on? Building new homes won't necessarily herald the arrival of an entire suburb of new residents, which is why I fear the current social problems will recur.

I would personally support #8's proposal for managed decline, since I get the impression Port Glasgow already has more housing stock than its population requires.
Sven
#11 Posted by Sven on 1 Nov 2012 at 16:19 PM
At last people are beginning to realise that we have too much housing in areas with high unemployment. Port Glasgow boomed and grew in the 1800's, now it needs to have managed decline. There is no point in paying people to live there! Large swathes of Glasgow are never going to be rebuilt, even with desperate measures of bringing in refugee and asylum seekers. Better to create green parks/sell the land as large garden plots for detached houses etc than adding flats that are difficult to let.

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