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Steve Inch comments on Glasgow's Regeneration

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24 Jun 2008

Steve Inch has been head of Glasgow's Development and Regeneration Services since January 2005 and deputy director since 1990. He studied geography at Aberdeen and planning at Glasgow University. Inch tends to talk in bullet points, (the product of a structured and rational approach to city development). He has been bred in that Glasgow city branding tradition that involves spinning successes and denying failures, but he's not complacent, in fact he exudes a real sense of urgency. His main concern is job creation rather than place-making, but he admits to 'a strong personal interest in heritage and design'.

Steve Inch has been head of Glasgow's Development and Regeneration Services since January 2005 and deputy director since 1990. He studied geography at Aberdeen and planning at Glasgow University. Inch tends to talk in bullet points, (the product of a structured and rational approach to city development). He has been bred in that Glasgow city branding tradition that involves spinning successes and denying failures, but he's not complacent, in fact he exudes a real sense of urgency. His main concern is job creation rather than place-making, but he admits to 'a strong personal interest in heritage and design'.

What are the main challenges facing Glasgow?

The first challenge is how we actually achieve a step change in the economic performance of the city. We need to understand what is our economy like and what it will be like in the future. The second challenge is to see that those that have limited access to opportunity have more access to opportunity. I'm interested in how cities can operate for the benefit all of their residents, rather than simply some of their residents. The third challenge is how we maximize the heritage, conservation opportunities in the city given that we have so many listed building and structures - it's such a huge opportunity for the city.

How do you engineer a step change in the economic performance of the city?

When I came to Glasgow we were losing jobs hand over fist. The work we did back in the mid 1980s involved identifying Glasgow's future as an international trading city and a city with an extensive Higher and Further education infrastructure. Since then I think the strategy has been working out what Glasgow's city specialisms. There's a range of industries that work well in a city environment; all the things called collectively the 'creative industries' and the financial services industry because it's based on the interchange of companies. That has been helped over the past few years by the trend of re-urbanisation.

The trend in inward investment has been to move away from the sort of companies that will go to greenfield sites. What we have now got is an economy based on intellectual capital and knowledge. On the back of that the universities and colleges are developing a range of training courses and skills development programmes so graduates coming out of the universities can be employed by companies provide career paths.

Where do you see the main challenges at a geographical level?

How do we actually capitalize on the Urban Regeneration Company in the East End, the Clyde Gateway is important. The URC has got a substantial budget, it's now got a board and a business plan. We also need to capitalize on the economic strength of the city centre both as a commercial centre in its widest sense, with the tourism and commercial infrastructure. How do we actually make the city centre a place where people want to live? What is the next stage in the life of the merchant city, for example? We also need to keep the momentum of riverside regeneration moving forward, making sure that all parts of the river benefit from investment which is either underway or planned.

What progress has been made so far in the East End?

We are now seeing significant housing investment jumping across the high street into the east end. We are likely to see a start to the Collegelands project in the very near future, hopefully in a couple of months. The fact that land values have risen means that many of the historic factors that have stopped development happening have been taken away by the movement of the market. And there are financial incentives such as; the Derelict Land Fund for decontamination and site preparation. The Scottish Government has just given us a further £18m three-year allocation.

What is the likely impact of new transport infrastructure on the East End?

What developers, and even the local community have told us in the past, is that the East End is a very difficult part of Glasgow to get into and to find your way around. Once we have the East End Regeneration route, we will have a clear route through the east end and it passes a number of key development site. It will be an incredibly powerful piece of road infrastructure. Similarly the motorway unlocks a range of sites. There is a budget of £500 million for the motorway and the £70million of the East End Regeneration route.

Is this enough to resolve the historic problems facing the East End?

The overall budget for the games is about £350million of expenditure linked specifically to the games. Then there is money that is not games expenditure, such as the Arena and the SECC and roads. If you add everything in you are talking about a project that is not far short of a billion pounds. The URC's budget is approximately £63 million over three years and the council is making available land to allow it to deliver its business plan. It's certainly enough to give it a very to positive start. It's important that we don't see the URC and the effort in the East End as simply being about the physical environment. There are a whole range of programme running which are about; jobs access retraining, maximizing community benefit from procurement programmes (we are doing a lot of work on that at present).

There is not enough provision for families in the City Centre?

Catering for families is a big issue for Glasgow. In part it is driven by the availability of land that is suitable for family housing. Our policy is to limit the amount of greenfield land released, but where it happens it is for family housing. We call them Community Growth Areas and it is master plan driven. In the east end there are three developers involved in the preparation of the master plan which take account of the needs of a new community, in terms of access to a wider range of resources.

How successful has the post of City Design Adviser been?

Gerry Grams is involved in the major master planning exercises to ensure that master plans prepared focus on design. He is involved in the detailed preparation of a number of specific briefs to make sure that design content features quite highly, (particularly in the commonwealth games village) and in most of the individual significant pre-planning application discussions. Personally I think we are getting proposals with a far higher design content than we got in the past. Despite the credit crunch there is still a lot of money available for the right types of investment. We have actually got the luxury to focus more on things like design because we know the industry is keen to develop in the city.

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