Why We Make Our Cityscapes Green – Alison Thewliss

Alison Thewliss is MP for Glasgow Central and Chair of the Clyde Gateway Urban Regeneration Company.

The famous Glasgow Garden Festival in 1988 is remembered by many Glasgowers. It’s incredible that a temporary exhibition has become woven into the fabric of the city. For me it also serves as a reminder that we must continue to ensure that people living in or visiting Scotland’s largest city have easy access to green spaces.

The World Health Organization says: “Anyone can benefit from urban green space interventions, but they may be of particular relevance to socially disadvantaged or underserved populations, who often have the least access to quality green space.”

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Greenspace is so important to people living in urban areas that the United Nations states that governments around the world, including the Scottish Government, “must provide universal access to safe, inclusive and accessible greenspace and public spaces, particularly for Women and children, older people and people with disabilities” – a claim that is anchored in the Sustainable Development Goals.

Clyde Gateway – Malls Swamp

With 81% of Scotland’s population living in urban areas, Clyde Gateway works in partnership with Green Infrastructure Strategic Intervention. It is a Scotland-wide initiative with many partners, including local authorities and housing associations, and aims to make our larger cities more attractive, equitable and environmentally responsible places to live, work and invest.

I was particularly proud to open a new £3.5million woodland park in Toryglen earlier this month, Malls Mire Woodland Park, which includes a nature reserve, bouldering animal trail and spaces for outdoor events and performances. The community forest park caters to fitness enthusiasts with an outdoor gym and pump track — a series of looped hills for cyclists designed to be used with minimal pedaling.

Just a short walk away is the spectacular Cuningar Loop Woodland Park, which benefits from a £2.3m upgrade to expand the park and includes 1,722 linear meters of footpaths, an educational log amphitheater, 167 specimen trees and 11,000 square feet of wildflower meadow provide meadow. It also houses the 23m tall Hope sculpture, a gracious gift to the city and legacy of hosting COP26. It symbolizes the hope of building a greener, healthier future and I can’t think of a better place to host it.

Work is also underway to convert sites in the heart of Glasgow’s East End into local community parks, with a £1m investment in the Old Dalmarnock Road Green Infrastructure project, where 5.7 acres of undeveloped land will be developed adjacent to the Bridgeton Community Learning Campus become an active green space. There is also Dalmarnock Riverside Park which was funded in 2021 by the Scottish Government’s Low Carbon Vacant and Derelict Land Investment Programme. When completed they will cement Glasgow’s reputation as one of the best cities in Europe for parks.

Importantly, local groups and residents have been involved in the development of these vital green spaces throughout the trip. All the parks represent a staggering £10m investment from Clyde Gateway, a testament to how much the regeneration organization and the local community value green infrastructure.

A key driver of Clyde Gateway’s work over the past decade has been the transformation of once abandoned and inaccessible sites into new green spaces designed to improve community engagement, health, well-being and lifelong learning. We all undoubtedly appreciate parks even more since the pandemic, and I hope Clyde Gateway residents and visitors will leave many treasured memories in the wonderful green spaces that are now available.

Alison Thewliss is MP for Glasgow Central and Chair of the Clyde Gateway Urban Regeneration Company.

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