Over the past few weeks I've been talking to residents about plans to demolish the Old College Bar on High Street to make way for a block of student flats. While gathering signatures for my petition, I have spoken to enough enthusiastic signees to demonstrate a real concern, not just of cultural heritage being ripped out of Glasgow, but also about the short-term, poor-quality architecture that we often see replacing it. Many people are jaded because of a lack a voice with which to influence decision-making, particularly in the planning process. Despite often huge opposition, many eventually give up trying to influence planning decisions, and the result: a loss of hope for people here.
The benefits of this kind of regeneration are one-sided and the social cost is high. Although new and better developments are needed, this building like many others before it, is hugely significant to the people who live here and the history it represents. It has served as a pub for centuries and is a cornerstone of the local community. It's a space treasured by Glaswegians who socialise here. At a time of social isolation, we should be preserving spaces which bring people together, not destroying them purely for profit's sake.
In the case of High St, let's demand that it be recognised for what it is: the medieval quarter of the city, holding immense cultural and historical value. We've seen Glasgow City Council celebrate the commercial potential of Glasgow (the 'Style Mile'); let's also see it reflect the huge cultural value of Glasgow's important Historical Mile.
There is also a real crisis for small businesses in the area, many of whom have had to shut up shop since new landlord City Property took over, from Glasgow City Council. Small businesses and charities, many of whom had previously been given concessionary rates, have been forced to pay for expensive repair costs and historic damage that the council should accept responsibility of, due to years of negligence. When our local business are facing challenges we should be focusing on supporting them, not tearing them down. Approving this application would be another nail in the coffin for small businesses; those who know well the communities in which they serve and who offer under- recognised social benefit to them, qualities which cannot be measured in simple GDP terms.
The city centre and surrounding areas have seen a huge increase in unaffordable student accommodation in recent years and the speed of these applications shows no signs of slowing down. Developers in Glasgow are benefitting from a boom in this type of housing which offers a high return on their investments. The problem is not the students who take up residence in them but ultimately opportunistic developers and the council, who seem out-of-touch when it comes to promoting sensible development and regeneration.
I want to see a more holistic approach to planning, one that recognises the bigger picture: of the long-term, environmental and social impacts of these types of development; the effect on communities and cultural heritage; and the needs of students from low income brackets.
I recently attended a busy public meeting about this and many residents and students gathered to express these exact concerns. It's clear that people want more say into these type of decisions and I want to see the planning process strengthened to reflect this. It is time for us to recognise the importance of our local people and businesses and to push back against rip-off student housing. That's why I have launched the petition to save the Old College Bar and it's why I’m hoping you will support it.
If elected I will push for communities to have greater voice in the planning process and I will fight for planning reform. I’ll also encourage Community Right to Buy and will work with Green Councillors and MSPs to push for a more progressive land reform agenda, one that does recognise the value that communities add to the land and places around them.
Sign our petition to save the Old College Bar here: