THE impact of Covid on the life of Glasgow remains the city council’s key focus and concern. At the time of writing we await details on what additional measures may be put in place to halt the rising numbers of infections. The City Council stands ready to help protect our communities in whatever way we can.

In the meantime, the wider work of the council continues. In the past week or so details on £100 million-plus invested in new housing in the past year, the thousands of homes it has funded and those it has brought back into use have been brought to committee. Updates on the ongoing reduction of vacant and contaminated land, a major blight on this city and burden many of our communities carry, have also been before councillors. We’re getting there, bringing the equivalent of several dozen football pitches back into use for housing, business or greenspace every year.

And we approved the North Glasgow Strategic Development Framework, another major step forward in delivering the area its people deserve. Many of our citizens will understandably hear talk of strategies and frameworks and wonder what the relevance is to their lives and their communities. In short, this work tells us what we’ve got to do for the north of Glasgow and how we should be doing it.

Anyone passing through Glasgow on the M8 or arriving into Queen Street Station by train can’t fail to notice the transformation taking place immediately north of the city centre. The landmark high-rises of Sighthill have given way to Scotland’s biggest regeneration project. An entire new neighbourhood with almost 1000 new homes, school, sports facilities and green spaces is rapidly taking shape. Delayed by lockdown, it will however welcome its first new residents to an entire new community in late 2021. Gone too is the eyesore footway over the M8, soon to be replaced by a new landmark pedestrian and cycle bridge, connecting the city centre with Sighthill and those communities in the inner north.

The new Sighthill will, I believe, be much more than just the rebirth of a community. It can be the catalyst for the renaissance of Glasgow’s North, a symbolic stake in the ground pointing towards the redressing of the neglect and abandonment its communities have long suffered. Land which was once the site of heavy industry or housing yet had lain derelict for generations has been primed for use and will soon be locations for major housing developments. Cowlairs, Dundas Hill, Hamiltonhill and Ruchill have been neglected too long but will soon be home to more new communities. This can be the trigger for real and deeper change. It was often said that, until relatively recently, the East End was the focus of too many false and failed starts. The north of the city could argue they haven’t even had that. I believe we are now seeing that start. And it’s real.

We know what many of the issues are. The proud industrial heritage of the area, tight communities and those strong town centres in Maryhill, Possil and Springburn gave way to dereliction, abandonment and a loss of footfall to sustain many local businesses. Contamination and dereliction have halted development. Main routes designed for vehicles are too often unwelcoming for pedestrians and cyclists or lack the attractiveness to encourage people on to them. The M8 and canal seemed to act as barriers, restricting access to the heart of the city.

But in recent years, there have been efforts – real efforts –to improve the quality of the area. Housing associations have played their role in developing vacant sites and improved the condition of existing homes. A number of private housing developments have attracted families back to north Glasgow. Scottish Canals has reversed the decline of the Forth and Clyde Canal, transforming it into an important leisure, biodiversity and route for walkers and cyclists. This gives the work now under way, from Sighthill moving north, some real solid foundations to build upon.

Of course, transforming the look and feel of an area cannot by itself address the socio-economic root causes of the issues which still affect so many across the north of the city. It can, however, help shape the environment where they live which has a real positive impact on the physical and mental wellbeing of communities. And the framework also addresses how residents can better access local services and facilities, public transport, cycling and walking routes, open spaces, parks and green networks, and, crucially, how the City Council can support economic growth which everyone can benefit from, and how we can improve access to employment opportunities.

The framework paper is now on the council’s website and I would urge anyone with a stake in the positive transformation of these proud areas to read it. Over the next 10 weeks or so we’re seeking the views of all interested parties, so please, if you can, take time to respond. The framework is shaped to stretch over the next 30 years but with Covid bringing into sharp focus where we live, how we work and access to open space, the quality of our surroundings, public health and wellbeing, I would really like to see progress accelerated. The issues raised in the report really can aid the social and economic recovery of this area of the city.

We all want a North Glasgow characterised by attractive neighbourhoods with open spaces, good travel links and all with convenient access to work, education, shopping, leisure and cultural activities. The North’s time has come. It’s time for us all to deliver the best communities

we can.