Just what Buchanan Street needs: a massive fucking glass box
It’s well established that Glasgow City Council’s grand ambitions for the city centre amount to turning it into one massive hell hole of exclusive boutiques, vacuous, identikit shopping malls and trendy wine bars. This is generally billed as ‘regeneration’, and we’re going to see an onslaught of it in the run up to the Commonwealth Games that the city’s hosting in 2014.
And in the latest step of this war on having-nice-places-to-sit-without-paying-anything, plans are afoot to demolish the iconic steps at the Royal Concert Hall, at the top end of Buchanan Street. The steps are a popular, public, and vitally, free social space in the city centre, where people chat, have lunch and sit about. The council are now proposing to demolish the steps and build a new, branded, ‘focal point’ entrance as part of an expansion of the Buchanan Gallaries shopping centre instead. And indeed, they’re pushing for the taxpayer to foot the £80 million bill for the shopping centre expansion!
The Concert Hall steps are far from an eyesore. There’s countless places in Glasgow that desperately need investment from the local authorities – but Buchanan Street is hardly the first place that springs to mind in this respect. For the council to seriously be mooting the possibility of borrowing £80 million to fund the expansion of a shopping centre is total madness in a year when they’re freezing salaries, cutting jobs and slashing services.
A trade union rally at the Concert Hall steps, June 2010
Elsewhere, the council are continuing to aim closure, sorry ‘rebranding’, threats in the direction of the historic Barras market, one of the last working class areas left in the centre of the city. Various councillors, as well as unofficial council mouthpiece the Evening Times, have been calling on the market to “clean up” its act and lose its “seedy reputation”. It appears that their main aim in this is to push for the transformation of the Barras into an expensive yuppie market with a ‘Camden-style regeneration package’ that will bring a ‘better class of retail’ and be a ‘good pull for tourists’, as one councillor has put it. No one’s denying that the Barras couldn’t do with a makeover, but the last thing we need is an expansion of the overpriced middle class ghetto that is the Merchant City, in a blatant attempt to squeeze out a street market which offers cheap goods to an overwhelmingly working class clientele.
As for the Buchanan Gallery development, outline planning permission has already been granted, despite the zillion and one things that’re wrong with it – nevermind just saving the steps, the last thing the city needs is more retail space, let alone a massive new shopping centre that will squeeze the bus station into its basement.
If you want to find out more about the campaign to ‘save the steps’, join the facebook group here.