Glasgow locals demand an eco-housing and sustainable energy development
by The Alternative UK
When we exalt the power of the local, sometimes we mean really local. We were alerted to this stirring Glasgow story this week. A patch of ground in the city’s Maryhill area has become, through the sharp and persistent activism of locals, the lens for a deep debate about the kind of houses we should build, to support a planet-friendly wellbeing.
As the pictures show above and below, this raised patch of ground around Collina Street – known locally as The Valley, a site from which houses were cleared in the 2000s – would conventionally be ripe for development. But what kind? This is the question that local and activist Norman Cunningham has been raising over the last few months.
In classic localist fashion, their aim has been to secure consultation about any development, and stop the sale of land before this consultation happens. Along with organisers Living Rent, they have compelled the council to postpone their sale plans for Collina Street for private housing, stopping it on January 16th, as the Glasgow paper The Evening Times reports. The activists have also decided to occupy the Valley “until the bulldozers come” – or until their own plans are worked up and delivered.
As Cunningham wrote forcefully in the radical news site Source:
We have developed our own vision and solutions for how this highly visible and desirable piece of real estate could be used to provide a world-class showcase for a sustainable, environmentally friendly community housing development.
It would utilise 21st century technologies in building materials and district heating systems and incorporating community enterprises to provide local training and employment opportunities for our people.
The site of this land, bounded by Maryhill Locks and the River Kelvin, makes it a realistic possibility for our exciting and ambitious plans – not just more houses, but a real community showcase of excellence for the future.
On their Twitter stream, the Valley protesters display up-to-the-minute knowledge of the kinds of eco-housing development they’re seeking, posting these videos from the RIBA-award-winning Goldsmiths Street and Oxford’s Marmalade Lane (which we featured here a few years ago).
As Lesley Riddoch notes in the National:
The community has two alternative proposals – a community buyout or a joint endeavour with a local housing association. Both options aim to build renewably heated social housing with integrated community functions and facilities – a showcase eco-development that could get under way in the year of COP26 [the vital global environment conference that is coming to Glasgow at the end of the year].
Living Rent member and Wyndford Tenants Union committee member Norman Cunningham said: “Wouldn’t it be something truly wonderful if a piece of land with houses that were seen as only fit for demolition was turned into a thriving community showcasing all the attributes needed to provide hope for future generations who want to make Scotland their home?
“A district heating scheme could be expanded to the rest of North Maryhill and would help the council comply with the Scottish Government’s zero-carbon policies for 2030.”
Even under the restrictions in public movement that Covid imposes, it’s great to see this kind of visionary urban land activism finding a way to make its case. Follow the Collina Street occupation on Twitter, Reddit, Facebook and Living Rent.
[Fun fact: the Valley has been a site for filming of the cult BBC Scotland gerontocratic sit-com, Still Game]
Update: in response to a first iteration of this post, we received a clarifying note from Norman:
Something important I need to convey about what we want to create at Collina St is a thriving sustainable community and not just houses. So the enterprises that we create will provide work and training for the people who live there and provide purpose in the present and hope for their kids.
I think middle class people raised in private houses in leafy suburbs do not understand ‘community’ as experienced by people living in deprived circumstances. The solutions they propose are based around material things like housing and jobs, wherever they may be.
Our plan is for greenhouse horticulture to be integrated into the design of the new community, with heating coming free from the return side of the district heating system. We could be growing tomatoes, capsicums etc, supplying food at source to locals and our shop and cafe which will be set up alongside the canal to fit in with that regeneration project. Maybe even bananas in Maryhill in winter!
This will create jobs, training, pride and all the other intangibles that arise from community. I have lots of information about the feasibility of this and will be happy to share.
This is the main point I need to communicate. Building not just houses but community. The council showed how good they were at demolition which killed communities, bloody useless at rebuilding them.
This was originally posted on the Alternative UK blog on 23rd January 2021.
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