Glasgow approves strategy to double number of city centre residents

Glasgow City Council has approved a new document which shows the way to doubling the city centre’s population to 40,000 over the next 15 years.

Glasgow approves strategy to double number of city centre residents

A 10-week public consultation on the City Centre Living Strategy (CCLS) will now begin on December 6.

While the city centre is currently home to a growing figure of just over 20,000 people, Glasgow lies behind competitor cities such as Manchester, Liverpool and Birmingham in terms of the numbers living and moving to live in the centre of those cities.

Although Glasgow is now seeing a significant increase in both investor interest and planning approvals for private sector rent developments - and so an increase in the city centre population - the need to accelerate this trend has been identified through the CCLS.

Population density is now considered crucial to the success and sustainability of city centres. These areas have traditionally been home to a thriving retail sector, and while Glasgow continues to be the biggest shopping destination in the UK outside of London’s West End, the rise of online shopping and shifting investor demand means that new uses have to be found for redundant floorspace, and residential development offers a good opportunity to repurpose this space.

The number of people living in UK city centres almost tripled between 2000-2011, as young, single and highly-educated millennials choose to live in urban areas and - while both Glasgow‘s city centre strategy 2014-19 and city development plan have contributed to making a more mixed-use (combining leisure with retail) city centre that is more attractive as a residential location - the CCLS will further guide the growth of this population is Glasgow and the provision of all the supporting infrastructure and services that will be required.

The city centre strategy 2014-19 had proposed a number of measures to make the area a ‘place to stay and live’, including:

  • Encouraging new developments, and the conversion of vacant properties into residential properties, to attract professionals, families, down-sizers and students;
  • Providing appropriate services such as schools and open spaces; and
  • Creating quality spaces and environments - now being made a reality through the Glasgow City Region City Deal Avenues project.

Glasgow does have advantages over other city centres in terms of attracting a wide demographic to live there, due to its atmosphere, vibrancy, connectivity and the scale of its shopping and leisure facilities, but there are also challenges around meeting supply and demand for residential development, such as a high proportion of listed buildings (possibly difficult and expensive to convert) and pre-1945 properties.

Research and public engagement by Savills over the past couple of years generated some key findings on the issue, including:

  •  A lack of residential availability and choice, and unmet demand;
  • Social housing plays a key role in some districts, providing affordable and secure accommodation;
  •  A perception that private housing in the city centre was expensive, and calls for more variety in housing cost and types;
  •  The greatest demand for city-centre housing was in the Merchant City, Broomielaw and Sauchiehall Districts;
  • Different types of infrastructure - community, social, smart and green - and tackling cleaning and anti-social behaviour issues are needed to make the city centre liveable; and
  • Developers look for information on the local authority’s priorities on issues such as the vertical separation of uses (ie retail on ground floor, residential above).

The CCLS has six key objectives:

  1. To increase the city centre’s population from just over 20,000 to 40,000 by 2035;
  2. To find productive outcomes for vacant commercial space, with a particular focus on upper floors;
  3. To provide a quality city centre environment that is cleaner, greener, more sustainable and better connected;
  4. To deliver quality in design across all development;
  5. To offer a responsive, innovative approach to investment opportunities that support this strategy; and
  6. To enable resilient, empowered and socially cohesive neighbourhoods.

The CCLS also takes into account the critical nature of climate change and will identify actions that form part of the collective response to the emergency.

Some of these are likely to include: enabling the reuse of buildings; the promotion of district heating systems where possible; supporting the ‘Avenues’ programme and other city-centre projects incorporating green and active travel infrastructure, as well as smart and electric vehicle infrastructure.

A draft action plan has been produced to deliver these objectives, some of which focus on specific city centre districts, others on social infrastructure, resilience and environmental improvements.

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