Clydebank is home to a community that knows all about overcoming challenges. A cornerstone of the Scottish shipbuilding industry, it suffered terribly in the depression of the 1930s and then during World War Two became synonymous in Scotland with the Blitz. When the Singer Factory closed in 1979 it was yet one more blow to absorb.
Out of this hardship, however, comes a community spirit which is strong and determined in the face of adversity.
That historic ability to meet challenges head-on is proving useful in a bold move to regenerate the urban void left by the demolition of St Eunan’s Primary School. The solution will be the creation of a Community Greenspace.
It hasn’t been a hasty route to the starting line for this project. The local community were involved in consultation events in 2016 and it was to be 2018 before Planning Permission was granted. Summer of 2019 marked the beginning of works commencing.
With a site which nestles amongst large amounts of housing the approach has to satisfy a range of concerns. Issues were thrashed out in detail, with residents playing a leading role in shaping ‘how’ and ‘what’ the project would deliver.
The ‘what’ crystallised fairly quickly into a shared vision. A Community Greenspace will take pride of place on the former school site. The word ambitious is oft over used, but ideally suited to the plan here. Coming soon will be a green space complete with biodiversity areas, recreation opportunities and easily accessible raised-bed allotments. The green light has flicked on, the starter’s gun has fired and local residents will see huge changes taking shape over the coming months.
The ‘how’ element is has by necessity been trickier, and the path to change hasn’t been without challenges. Access via small residential streets is something that required careful discussion. So too did the need to ‘cap’ the site due to contamination, a process which meant that building any new housing here was not an option. The solution is that a protective barrier has had to be installed to effectively seal the site.
At just over 2 hectares this is a sizable site. That’s one of the reasons why there will be new paths to ease travel through the park for the local community, be they pedestrians or cyclists. Active travel is high on Scotland’s agenda these days and delivers health benefits whilst encouraging closer connections between communities.
Other innovative approaches being applied here are the installation of outdoor exercise equipment and a community growing garden. The growing area is eagerly awaited and to ensure a sense of community ownership will be the preserve of local key holders. And in a nod to the site’s previous purpose the park will enthusiastically encourage outdoor education and school visits.
Finally, given the area’s rich industrial history, it is understandable that residents were keen that this was reflected on the site. Interpretation panels will celebrate the industrial endeavours of the area and recollect how the name of Clydebank was known far beyond the shores of Scotland.
With a sense of where they are coming from it’s perhaps not surprising that the resident were equally clear on where they want to see their area going next. With their drive and enthusiasm, a new chapter should be written in the regeneration of Clydebank.
Good quality green infrastructure creates better places to live in, and will improve physical and mental health and well-being. That’s a recipe for success at any time, in any language.