Secret Scotland

If it's secret, and in Scotland…

Go-ahead for £1.5 million Barras area refurbishment

Barras Sign

Following quickly on from the news that an area of Sauchiehall Street is to be refreshed, it seems the area of The Barras is to enjoy a similar spot of ‘Spit and Polish’.

While it’s better than the fate which befell Paddy’s Market, I can’t quite work up the same enthusiasm for this announcement.

Don’t take that the wrong way, the area is in serious need of refurbishment. While much tidying has taken place around it, the core which was once the centre of The Barras has been left behind, and leaves much to be desired.

However, if we leave to one side the market area below and behind the Barrowland Ballroom (and that is sadly much deserted when I have taken a walk there in recent months) then the remaining area of The Barras is a virtual desert, with most of the buildings having been demolished in relatively recent years, leaving only a few of the more substantial structures still standing.

As I have noted in posts made a year ago, it can be alarming to arrive there in the afternoon, say 2 or 3 pm, and find the remaining stallholders in the street clearing up and getting ready to go home, while the few indoor pitches (who now label themselves as ‘Antique Dealers’) are pretty much deserted too.

And one of the oldest original “McIver’s Markets” (the founders were McIver, Margaret to be specific) buildings is really sad now (the one with the bikes on sale outdoors at one corner). While one corner still has some decent books and memorabilia on sale (from some real old original marker ‘characters’ too), the rest of the area is just dead and derelict stalls with broken junk piled up on them, gathering dust. The last few times I dropped in, even that ‘interesting’ corner seemed to have been abandoned, and was covered over with dust sheets.

Maybe I just go on quiet days, or at the wrong time of day.

Frankly, a visit to The Barras these days, for me at least, is actually a visit to Bill’s Tools Store (for any bargains on offer) and a check on Pearson’s, to make sure that’s still there too.

Work on a £1.5 million renovation of Glasgow’s Barras market is set to begin next month after the plans were approved by city councillors.

The plans, which form part of the Glasgow City Region Deal, will see the development of underused space aimed at attracting new businesses and creating a “key gateway” to the East End.

• READ MORE: What does the future hold for Glasgow’s Barras markets?

A report that went before the Glasgow City Region City Deal cabinet said: “The revitalisation of this area is both critical in overcoming barriers to wider development of the whole Collegelands Calton Barras (CCB) area.”

It added: “The overall CCB project will deliver sustainable economic growth in Glasgow and the city region. This will enable the regeneration of sites which are not suitable for development in their current state, including attracting investment that supports high value industries.”

Having been given the green light, the project is targeted for completion by March next year.

Via: Glasgow’s Barras market to get £1.5m revamp

I can only hope they have at least partial success in some sort of revival.

Or maybe we should just be honest, and say The Barras is gone, and has been for years.


June 21, 2017 Posted by | Civilian, council | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Sauchiehall Street set for much needed refresh

Until recently, I wasn’t able to get into Glasgow – something of a penalty for someone who not only worked in the city centre, but was also a frequent visitor.

I don’t know how long I was unable to have anything more than the odd obligatory visit on business, but after more than a decade of not really seeing the place, the changes can come as a bit of a shock, and I don’t mean just the demolition and rebuilding seen in some areas.

While those (as I was) who see the place on a daily basis, incremental changes, decay, and just general wear and tear can go unnoticed.

For that reason, I was pleased to see:

MULTI-MILLION pound plans to re-develop Glasgow’s famous Sauchiehall Street to be debated by city councillors.

Members of the city region cabinet have been recommended to approve proposals brought forward by the City Deal team.

Sauchiehall Street as it looks at the moment. Picture: John Devlin

The plans would result in more cycle paths, additional pedestrian walkways, less traffic and more opportunities for businesses.

Work, if approved, would start on the section of road between Charing Cross to Rose Street.

Via: Glasgow’s Sauchiehall Street set for £7.2m revamp

I’m sure there will be negative voices against this, but I also suspect they will come from the usual ‘Naysayers’ (those whose response to any suggestions is an automatic ‘NO!’ regardless of the benefits), and from those who see the area on a daily basis, and have just noticed that while it may not be fair to say it is ‘Run down’, it is tired after years of uncoordinated work.

Sauchiehall Street Transformed

Sauchiehall Street Transformed – Image from Glasgow city Council

June 18, 2017 Posted by | Civilian, council | , , | Leave a comment

George Square facelift approved

George Square lion

The things I have seen
George Square lion by Myrrien

The £15 million facelift (or revamp if you prefer), has been approved by Glasgow City Council, hopefully putting the nail in the 6 coffins holding the daft proposals that were presented for makeovers, and silencing the whining noise in the corner (the architects that won the contest to have one of those 6 proposals chosen, but was then jilted when Glasgow City Council saw sense, and dropped the lot in light of comments made by Glasgow’s citizens).

While the 6 designs proposals may – or may not – have been very nice, all of them suffered from lacking any grasp of reality regarding Scotland’s weather, and the heritage of the square. Within a few years, I am pretty sure they would have looked very tired, and been an endless source of maintenance costs.

That process is said to have a cost to taxpayers of £100 k, and of £200 k to the applicants. Apparently the applicants are not happy, but nobody forced them to take part, and whatever happened, 5 of them would not have been happy, so in reality, all that has happened is that one more is not happy, making 6 rather than 5… big deal (not) – and that extra one threw his toys out of his pram.

If you have the time, it’s interesting to follow the links to other sites (given in the news stories referenced below) with active members commenting on the process.


Because it’s rather amusing to see that they initially contained many negative comments regarding the 6 proposals, and suggestions that things in the square should be restored with more grass, and the statues in place, with near universal condemnation of the red ‘tarmac’ and calls for something to cover it up so it no longer offended the eye.

Now, would you believe that the same sites now have comments which largely complain about “Not much being done” in response to this approval.

Has someone else already coined the phrase “You can’t win”.

No radical redesign

On Thursday, Glasgow City Council agreed that the makeover of the civic space should occur in two stages, before and after the Commonwealth Games is held in 2014.

Under the plan, the red tarmac that is currently in place at the square will be removed and “a grey, surface treatment, using Epoxy Resin” will replace it.

The council hopes the first phase of the revamp will be completed by September this year, while it will also involve cleaning the statues in the square, installing new lighting and introducing two new grass beds at the site.

Councillors heard this first stage will cost around £500,000, while the second phase that will include further landscaping works and lighting improvements, would cost around £14.5m and further details of it will be presented to councillors this autumn.

Council leader Gordon Matheson told the executive committee meeting on Thursday that there will be a “possible public consultation” on the second phase works after the 2014 Games, although a report before councillors stated it would not include a “radical redesign” of the space.

Via Glasgow’s George Square will undergo £15m facelift this year | News | Glasgow | STV

Also George Square to receive more modest revamp, councillors agree

March 22, 2013 Posted by | Civilian, council | , , , , , | Leave a comment

New George Square design unveiled ahead of vote by Glasgow City Council

George Square lion

The things I have seen
George Square lion by Myrrien

A plan for the promised facelift of George Square is due for review and approval by Glasgow Council this week.

There’s no mention of any involvement by the architects who were so upset after they won the competition (the STV story does not give any indication as to who is responsible for the new plans), but were dumped when it was clear the people didn’t want the radical changes any of the entries had proposed, despite the architect claiming to have support. The designs – all probably more appropriate for Continental Europe rather than soggy Scotland – were dumped in favour of a facelift, and a degree of restoration of George Square to the way it used to be, when the people were quite happy with it.

Following a botched design competition in January, it was announced the square would undergo a substantial facelift rather than a controversial redevelopment.

The first image of how the civic space could look was released on Saturday, ahead of a report on the first stage of the redesign going to the council’s Executive Committee on Thursday.

Leader of Glasgow City Council Councillor Gordon Matheson said: “The people of Glasgow were very vocal throughout the design competition that they did not want a radical redesign of the square.

“They wanted the statues to remain, the grass to stay and the red tarmac to go. We listened to their views and have responded.

“Work will begin on phase one of the redeveloped square in July and is scheduled to run until September.

“The two grass beds on the western side of the square will be returned, ensuring a greener square at the heart of our city.”

“We are introducing feature lighting to the statues, the Cenotaph and trees within the square.”

A grey surface treatment using epoxy resin, which will replace the current red tarmac, is said to be extremely hard-wearing in icy conditions and should achieve a notable improvement in the appearance of the square.

via New George Square design unveiled ahead of Glasgow City Council vote | News | Glasgow | STV.

March 18, 2013 Posted by | Civilian, council | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Winning architect behind George Square design throws toys out of pram over cancellation

Crying babyIn an outburst which probably means there was more interest in collecting cash than the accolade of winning the design contract, The Glaswegian has named architect John McAslan as slamming Glasgow City Council for running a “hopelessly handled mess”.

He is reported to have said:

The design world is littered with competitions that have never come to fruition but I can’t recall a competition being so immediately abandoned.

It is unique and I think it has been
 hopelessly handled by the council and its leader Gordon Matheson.

We were selected as the winners and 
notified by email – but we were notified
 simultaneously that the council had 
abandoned the process.

I haven’t had any other contact from 
the council but I have written to Councillor Matheson suggesting we meet and talk about what happened and
try to salvage something from the wreckage of his making.

It is bizarre and brings a lack of credibility to the city and the process.

You just don’t behave
like that – it’s not the way
 competitions should be run.

Via: George Square revamp ‘winner’ slams Glasgow City Council – the Glaswegian


Has he not read the papers or seen the other stories in the media?

Instead of throwing a strop and having a hissy fit, he should be making mileage out of the fact that his design won, and offering prayers to his preferred deity for not being stuck in the middle of a probable long drawn out war between the council and the citizens of Glasgow.

Glasgow City Council was smart enough to see that their high-handed and self-appointed decision to mess with the city’s George Square yet again, and make it into a bigger mess than it had already become, was going to start a fight with the people of Glasgow, and move a “sure” cosy job in the City Chambers down and step into one that was perhaps only “safe” in future.

The council ran to the line, and credit where credit is due, did not carry on regardless and drag the affair out for weeks, months, or even years, while wasting yet more time and money on a fight with the people, who had spoken and expressed their general dislike for the idea.

McAslan is not so wise, and is seeking to drag this out in some way and for some reason.

Were there hands being rubbed in the knowledge that when the project overran its initial budget of £15 million pounds, the cash would not be cut off leaving the contractors to pick up the excess, but that the taxpayer would have funded the overrun?

And, in the real world… how many of these project come in under budget, or even on budget?

I’d rather wanted an original picture of George Square, from the formal days when it was full of set displays and iron railings, but I don’t have any that are safely out of copyright, and I don’t want to upset anyone who might own the ones I have – so, this handy pic of a possible good view of George Square after McAslan modifications seems as good as any.

George Square pigeon

George Square with pigeon © Roberge2008 via Flickr

I’m surprisingly disappointed by this (response), as I had been impressed by the company a few months ago, while reading the architectural press and learning that it had been part of a short-listing for companies that would be involved in plans to double the size of the city of Moscow, and that it was already underway with a number of projects in the surrounding area.

That a practice with offices in Edinburgh (and London, and Manchester) can win business in such a place is no mean feat.

Update – January 2013

The cynical might be forgiven for thinking that they’ll do anything to get their hands on the £15 million (or perhaps the  more attractive overrun).

From none of the plans apparently being reported as popular with the people, the “Loser” appears to be claiming some sort of wide support for the revamp – strange, very strange…

Via: George Square redesign ‘winner’ rallies support for overhaul to go ahead – the Glaswegian

January 24, 2013 Posted by | Civilian, council | , , , , | Leave a comment

Glasgow City Council heads for cover behind George Square fiasco

George Square lion

The things I have seen
George Square lion by Myrrien

One of the things that can be found in the history of Glasgow City Council is a strange tendency for its members to pursue their own desires in the face of opposition from the people of Glasgow, often amidst claims by citizens that council plans have been put in place without any consultation, or ignoring them if they have been heard.

Although I don’t pay a great deal of attention to such things (since the truth gets lost by those who like to play politics), we have had such things in the past in the form of the Go Ape story in Pollock Park, the handing over of management of museum assets to private companies (which seemed to upset many), the extermination of Paddy’s Market (to suit some trendy idea about art, possibly because it lay so near re-reborn The Briggait) and most recently, an announcement almost out of nowhere that the Glasgow’s George Square was to be subject to one of six possible makeovers, of which the council would make the final choice of the award of £15 million to the design it preferred, a choice not offered anywhere to the people of the city:

With no apparent choice in the selection of the six final designs (just invitations to view the final selection, or of the final design itself, it looked as if the people of Glasgow were set for a fight, and were planning various protests and rallies against whichever of the six designs was chosen for them by Glasgow City Council.

Basically, none of the six was acceptable – with things probably not appropriate for the Scottish climate being included (such as extensive water features), and some even appearing to require the removal of the statues which have been installed in the square over the years, and one calling for the central column in the square to be moved.

There was another gem released by the council in the days running up to the final decision – any overrun in the allocated £15 million project cost would be met by the taxpayer, not the council. Which might as well be interpreted as a licence for the winner to print money, with  no incentive to stay within budget… their money was guaranteed, and the council had protected its own pot.

Then, at the last moment, and just as the final choice was made by the council (why did they bother)… it was announced that NONE of the proposals would be used, although the council members had actually made their choice (well, why waste a free round of tea/coffee and sandwiches at the taxpayer’s expense) :

The design competition for a new square was won by John McAslan and Partners but the council said it would not be proceeding with the £15m contract.

Glasgow City Council leader Gordon Matheson said: “The people of Glasgow have made it clear that they do not want a radical redesign of the square.

“They want the square to look better and be a place of which they can be proud – a place they can while away a sunny afternoon or get together and celebrate the big occasions in the life of the city.

“They also want us to keep the statues where they are, and they like the grass. However, they clearly want rid of the red tarmac. I am proud to say that I am listening to them.”

Cllr Matheson said the scaled-back refurbishment would be carried out in time for the 2014 Commonwealth Games.

He added: “Only if there is public demand thereafter, will we consider a radical change.”

The design competition to completely overhaul the square was announced by the council last year.

Earlier this month, six shortlisted designs were selected from a total of 35 companies which had expressed interest in the project.

The four British firms on the shortlist were Burns and Nice, Gustafson Porter, JM Architects and John McAslan and Partners.

They were joined by American firm James Corner Field Operations and Agence Ter from France.

Their designs have been on display at The Lighthouse for the past few weeks, where members of the public have been able to register their comments.

The judging panel comprised of David Mackay, MBM Architects Barcelona and Professor Andy McMillan, former head of Mackintosh School of Architecture, Glasgow School of Art.

They were joined by David Harding, former head of Environmental Art, Glasgow School of Art, Geoff Ellis, director of DF Concerts and Cllr Matheson.

The technical advisor of the panel was Neil Baxter, secretary and treasurer, The Royal Incorporation of Architects in Scotland (RIAS).

The panel’s decision had been due to be announced on Friday but was delayed after judges could not reach agreement.

Via: George Square redesign: Council drops radical revamp plan

George Square refurbishment announced

Instead, the £15 million will be spent on a facelift for George Square, including a fix for the so-called “Red Tarmac” that seems to have irritated so many Glaswegians by its continued presence on the square since the last time it was tampered with, and the place they knew and loved was generally ruined.

Speaking to STV News later, Councillor Gordon Matheson expanded on the initial news of the refurbishment:

“We’re also looking at ways to reduce traffic flow around George Square, too.

“We we still invest £15m but this is a major investment in George Square and, in the process, the grass will remain which is what the people have said that they wanted, the statues will remain — but we need to respect the history of George Square, too.

“We will introduce high-quality public realm and ensure that whenever there are major civic events taking place within the square, like the George Square Christmas light switch on, that all the requirements will be in place under the square so we don’t need to bring in any generators and all this sort of stuff.”

STV also included the following impression of the design that Glasgow City Council had chosen for the “New” George Square  redesign, produced by John McAslan & Partners which has offices in Edinburgh:

George Square redesign

George Square redesign produced by John McAslan & Partners which has offices in Edinburgh

I get the impression that rather a lot of Glasgow city councillors would have had to jump on their horses and get out of town if that had actually been created.

There’s no good reason the original green and pleasant city centre landmark could not have been retained much in its original format of many years ago, other than the need of a few councillors who probably went on one of those stupid ‘facilitating’ (by whatever name) courses, and came back brainwashed with some idea that they would be seen as failures, or weak and incapable if they made any sort of “no change” or “status quo” type of decision, and had been sold the line that “No decision is not an option”. The latter being a favourite of my Sales & Marketing director, who liked to fire anyone that did not keep making changes. His philosophy was that one had to make a decision, because “Even the wrong decision was better than no decision.”

One can only ponder on how much good Glasgow City Council could have done for itself had the lasting memory of this sham not been one of “How much money was squandered on meeting, proposals, dinners, refreshments, expenses, etc, etc, etc…” (not to mention hours that could have been better spent on council business), and not instead been the much sharper and welcome announcement weeks ago that the council had managed to amass £15 million from various saving initiatives, and was going to spend the money on restoring George Square as per the wishes expressed by many Glaswegian in recent years, and of taking the opportunity to improve the facilities available there.

Meh… Too simple.

January 21, 2013 Posted by | Civilian, council | , , , , , | 1 Comment


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