Regenerating the river that snakes through the heart of Glasgow will be no mean feat. The vision must be broad enough to take in the area from Glasgow Green to the east of the city centre, right through to Erskine Bridge in the west. Research by Ryden estimates that the overall plan for the regeneration will involve 17 different development proposals across four different council jurisdictions.
In an attempt to co-ordinate these plans, the Scottish Executive asked economic development agency Scottish Enterprise at the end of 2001 to chair a working group comprising nine public-sector bodies in the hope of establishing a framework for action. But in June this year, Glasgow City Council resigned from the group after becoming dissatisfied with the lack of progress in what it considered to be little more than a talking shop.
'[The working group] wasn't adding anything,' says Glasgow City Council's John Bury. 'Sitting around talking doesn't put things on the ground. We don't have to talk about strategy anymore, we've got one.' The working group continues to meet and talk – without Glasgow council. Bury says the council prefers to deal with Scottish Enterprise 'on a project-by-project basis'.
Bury stresses that that the council's issues are with the national team of Scottish Enterprise, and not with the local department, Scottish Enterprise Glasgow.
Some in the market attribute the falling out to the perception that the national Scottish Enterprise team has taken power away from the regional bodies, especially in Glasgow where its national headquarters is based. It is also thought that the problems of working together were exacerbated by a personality clash between council leader Charles Gordon and Scottish Enterprise's chief executive Robert Crawford.
Steven McGarva, project director for the Clyde at Scottish Enterprise's national team, insists that whatever their origins the troubles are firmly behind them and that the two parties are managing to work together. 'There have been issues,' he admits. 'But we're back round the table. There's more happening on the Clyde than there ever has been before.'
Despite a slow market, the private sector is pushing forward with development on several individual schemes. When Glasgow Harbour, a joint venture between Clydeport and Bank of Scotland, began marketing its first residential phase in August, all 420 units were sold within 24 hours. The three housebuilders involved – Park Lane, Cala, and Bryant Homes – have only been on site since January.
Other plans for the £500m scheme, which covers 120 acres (48.6 ha) of redundant former shipyards and docklands on the north bank of the Clyde, include what Glasgow Harbour's managing director Euan Jamieson describes as 'an integrated leisure and retail area', but not a traditional shopping centre. It will also include Glasgow's transport museum, which is being relocated from the west of the city centre.
Sitting around talking doesn’t put things on the ground
John Bury Glasgow city council
However, Jamieson says that despite the success of the residential section, the office element which Glasgow Harbour is looking to develop on the east side of the River Kelvin will not be built speculatively.
Positive progress has also been made at Pacific Quay on the south bank of the Clyde, which the council has defined as a business, leisure and media quarter. Alan Somerville, director at Pacific Quay Developments, the joint venture between Grosvenor, Miller and CTP says that after years of inactivity it was not taken seriously. 'What has been holding Pacific Quay back is a lack of credibility,' he explains. All that is set to change as the long-awaited planning permission for Finnieston Bridge has been granted. The BBC has always said that the relocation of its Scottish headquarters to Pacific Quay depended on the bridge. With all the necessary consents in place, a BBC spokesman confirms that it will be submitting a planning application for the 300,000 sq ft (27,871 sq m) building before the end of November.
Jamieson is upbeat about progress on the Clyde: 'There's an excellent momentum being built up. But what we do need is a greater investment in the transport infrastructure.'
The success of the regeneration of the Clyde hinges on connectivity, linking each individual scheme by efficient transport and public-realm works. Plans include road links, a tram system, as well as river taxis and ferries. A ferry already runs to the Braehead shopping centre about a mile away from the city centre, and the council has shortlisted six architects to design a bridge at Tradeston.
The working group may not have worked, but in the longer term Scottish Enterprise and Glasgow council need to work together: while the council has the planning powers, Scottish Enterprise controls the purse strings.
Somerville points towards other waterfront schemes like London's Docklands, where extensive regeneration has transformed the former industrial wasteland into a destination in its own right. 'It is important that the public sector works together, otherwise it creates unnecessary barriers,' he says.