Transforming Pollok Park: Detailed Feedback to planning

For a while now, there have been proposals and consultations regarding a restructuring Pollok Country Park access arrangements, known as ‘Transforming Pollok Country Park’.

The full planning proposal was made available earlier in June (ref 20/01352/FUL), and the closing date for feedback is 6th July 2020. I’ve been a bit busy with AGMs, and various other things, but finally pulled my finger out at the weekend to review and write my own feedback (after prompting for some feedback to assist with drafting the GoBike response to same)

I’m afraid it’s another epic, in a similar vein to the Bellahouston park objection earlier in the year. But then I do live very, very close to the park and am directly impacted. That said, I hope I’m not about to find myself on a list at Glasgow Planning HQ…

During the drafting, I found some key points that may be of interest, and wanted to make it available for anybody who may be drafting their own.

  • There’s some deeply flawed proposals for Haggs/Shawmoss junction that prevents a right turn heading north. This will cause a lot of traffic to go into side-roads or through already busy rat-runs in Waverley park.
  • The traffic analysis that accompanies the proposal is very limited in scope.
  • The retention of the Burrell carpark for – get this – 109 general parking spaces in addition to a new carpark, is fundamentally at odds with the goal of removing cars from the centre of the park. I think it should be Blue Badge/access only, or – conversely – the sole car park, with a rethought access arrangement.
  • Further, that usage/modelling necessitates construction of a new road in the park (ie. to support two-way traffic). If they didn’t have as much use being made, it wouldn’t have to be two way, and it could perhaps be widened more sympathetically to allow passing of limited access traffic.
  • Much of the modelling/driving for a separate entrance was because of tourist traffic, ie. buses etc coming to the park, that couldn’t get under the Pollokshaws road bridge. With Coronavirus, much of this premise is up in the air.
  • That the above really just suggests they reassess their assumptions, certainly the analysis, before they start digging up the park.

Lots more in my draft. It is lengthy, but it feels reasonably coherent and – as much as it can be – to-the-point. I do have sympathy for the planning department, and want to try and be reasonable and help them reflect it up to the people (councillors) making the decision.

Plus they’ve published hundreds and hundreds of pages of supporting documents, they have to expect long, detailed responses.

I doubt it’ll make any difference to the inevitable decision: it feels like this has political weight behind it. Whilst I have clearly reservations, if it got built mostly as-is (with a few pragmatic shifts), I’d not be tying myself to a tree.

I ultimately think they had some tough decisions, but bent in a different direction than they could have if they’d not ruled things out earlier on.

I will be reaching out to my elected representatives for some of the implications to request they make representations of their own, not least I think the proposal is basing itself on an inadequate traffic analysis and outdated likely visitor modelling.

Hope it’s of use.

Other feedbacks I’m aware of that may be helpful if you’re of a similar mindset:

A thing what I made

A few weeks ago I was getting a touch nervous about how to chair my running club’s first ever Virtual AGM.

I was casting around for ideas and inspiration when I read this fortuitous tweet by my friend shardcore, who had found himself in a similar(ish) position giving a first ever virtual talk. He then posted a follow-up that put me on to this superb ‘tiny talk’ by Marcus John Henry Brown on Virtual Keynotes.

Now I don’t really consider myself to be a creative person, but the ‘tiny talk’ triggered a few ideas and just enough up-front confidence to think I could manage something, so I roughed out a rough ‘screenplay’, which miraculously didn’t get shot down by the people I discretely talked to about the idea.

I was set too on rounding it off with a ‘highlights reel’ to try and capture some of abundant positivity the club had developed during the lockdown to support each other – and me. There were lots of great contributions that I wanted to reflect, and in a way that felt a bit special.

So I set about recording a rough-cut, then a second ‘proper’ version, as well as a handful of video inserts plus the featured interview.

It took far longer than I’d anticipated, not least it turns out I’m absolutely terrible at remembering lines, and even when I remember them, speaking them CLEARLY. It’s much, much harder than Marcus John Henry Brown makes it look in his excellent youtube videos. I have a new found respect for every. actor. ever.

I also discovered just much time you can spend editing: That tantalising quest for the ‘perfect’ version that is surely, surely, just around the corner.

All difficult and time consuming, for sure, but I’m pleased – if still a touch nervous – with the result.

Whilst Chairing the AGM in which it featured, I confess I spent most of time my video was playing (all the sections so very familiar to me) with my head in my hands, nervously glancing at the 2nd laptop, showing the gallery of attendees’ delayed reactions to what was playing on my computer.

Were they staring in horror, or were they enjoying it? Oh good grief, was it buffering?, was it blocky, did that joke actually work, did it skip a bit, or – dare I imagine it – was it actually ok?

It was, it seems, actually ok. Some lovely words and comments received.

I suppose at this point I should let you judge for yourself:

A few technical notes: We used Zoom for the main meeting, streaming it over to Youtube (a full livestream of the AGM is available if you’re really, really curious). I used my iMac (recently with an external SSD to make it usable again) and iMovie to edit (and edit, and edit, and edit) the videos. I’ve a Blue Snowball Ice for sound.

The lack of feedback during the ‘broadcast’ was the hardest part. I’m definitely with shardcore here. No eye contact from the audience (or deliberate avoidance of such!) to indicate how well/terribly something was received. No chuckles, or even awkward silences to give you a steer.

This was just as true for the role of Chair too. 90 minutes in total, trying to move it through the agenda to keep it punchy, reflect comments, and give answers. Trying (entirely unsuccessfully) not to ummm. Oh good grief, do I ummm a lot.

A co-host – in our case fellow Trustee Emer – was invaluable to manage the meeting. With 60 or so attendees, too much going on otherwise (in my own head, and in the meeting). Plus I’d somehow lost the gallery view of attendees on my desktop, so was utterly terrified of destroying the call, if I pressed the wrong button.

As a digression, I believe strongly in open Governance: I think it’s important to see how decisions are made by organisations. To allow its membership to feel involved, and to lower the barriers to their engagement with it.

Governance really doesn’t have to be boring and monochrome. It can be engaging, enjoyable, informative, colourful and fun too.

I hope some of that comes through. You can find a summary of the AGM outcomes on the club news page.

I hope it all serves to make the club – a charity after all – stronger as a result, and I’m certain we’ll be using more virtual elements in future.

I’ve learnt a lot too. Plenty of technical elements, skills and tools, but unexpectedly about myself. Focusing on what I wanted to communicate, and how, but also on what mattered most to me.

All said, a fun and valuable experience. It’s perhaps helped draw a line under a strange few months, and I helped garner a bit more confidence about being a bit more when giving talking in public.

FWIW here’s the musical montage I put together separately. That track is going to resonate with me for a long while:

2018 Press coverage

A lot happened at the tail end of last year with the 10th anniversary of parkrun in Scotland, and I realised it wasn’t reflected here.

Interviews are both fun and terrifying. Fun, because it’s great to see things you care about getting coverage; terrifying because that filter process your words go through when a journalist reports them always feel a bit… odd.

A couple of prominent articles linked below. It’s fun seeing your name in lights, but I’m delighted there’s strong recognition of the people who were instrumental in getting parkrun off the ground in Scotland, and have helped make it a success over the years.

BBC – Runners mark 10 years of Scottish parkrun

Runners mark 10 years of Scottish parkrun – a nice wee piece, and a great photograph. Great coverage too of Liz Corbett, who took over as Event Director at Pollok, but now does so much as Scotland regional ambassador to develop parkrun here in Scotland.

I was keen to get my running club, Bellahouston Road Runners, a bit of a plug. Ideas, particularly slightly risky ones like starting a weekly 5k, take time to gestate and you need confidence you’re not entirely mad. Club runs with club colleagues where I muttered away about a “Pollok Park Time Trial”, and them not telling me it was a silly idea, were hugely helpful.

In the space I have here, I’d also add a note about Fetcheveryone – in a pre-facebook day, this was perhaps the main running UK social network, and there was lots of interest, and volunteer offers, there too.

Evening Times – Glasgow’s parkrun founder reflects on 10 years of 5K phenomenon

Making the front page of the 28th December 2018 edition of the Evening Times came as a real surprise: we’d thought, at best, it’d be a bit of filler in the newspaper, but to see club members on our ‘subway run’ feature prominently on the front page was just brilliant.

It’s a great piece too: Glasgow’s parkrun founder reflects on 10 years of 5k phenomenon

I remember talking to Catriona Stewart on the phone during a break at work at the BBC: she was brilliantly supportive of my nerves. It was an absolute delight to read her most recent article, and her recent (November 2019) twitter thread about her experiences at Glasgow’s newest (7th!) edition, the amazing Queen’s parkrun, Glasgow

Seeing parkrun events developing and reaching people 11 years later just shows what an amazing setup a free, weekly, 5k timed run anybody can take part in is brilliant. Looking forward to the next few years.

Wikipedia experiences

In November 2019, I made an attempt to start a Wikipedia page on Glasgow Life, the Glasgow City Council arms-length charity that operates the cultural, sports, library and community facilities in the city.

I did this because I had spent a fair amount of time researching some aspects of decisions relating to investments and decisions in a nearby park and leisure facility, and wanted to put some of the information I’d gathered somewhere public, in the hope it’d be useful to others.

Alas I ran headfirst into the slightly frustrating part of Wikipedia of opaque and obtuse policies, and slightly overzealous editors. My initial attempt was swiftly deleted (“Unambiguous advertising”). You can read the detail, and my technical response to it, on my Wikipedia talk page.

Whilst I know that wikipedia editors face a barrage of challenges, from defacement to advertising, and much else, I really can’t help but feel the baby was being thrown out with the bathwater here.

So I made second attempt, but that was – I felt – watered down to the point of uselessness, with a continued vague suspicion on the part of the editor who’d taken a look that I simply must work for the organisation, rather than simply be a geekily enthusiastic and motivated Glasgow resident/taxpayer about ensuring wider dissemination of the organisation, and its decision making. It’s an important quango with an annual budget of around £120m

So my ‘full’ article is available on the Draft history here, but I suspect if I don’t get the piece published (it’s still rejected), it’ll probably get deleted. So I’ve added a page on my website here with a copy of the article. It’s accessible at: https://leyton.org/glasgow-life-summary/

I tweeted about the experience as it happened, which does a good job of relaying the frustration I felt with the process. The thread is below.

NB. I realised subsequently it wasn’t actually my first wikipedia article. That was actually a 2005 article on Glasgow Fair. My wikipedia user id is rleyton, and I’d of course welcome any motivated Wikipedia editors to help give me a hand bringing a fuller Glasgow Life article together.

Friends of Pollok

Back in June I attended a meeting of Friends of Pollok park. From my time establishing Pollok parkrun, it’s a group I’d always hoped would appear: It’s a stunning park, and in the climate of cuts and reduced expenditure, really would benefit from an advocacy group to work constructively with council, park managers, and nearby groups/organisations to support the park.

The council is helping support it, but the attendance at the June meeting was a bit… sparse. So I got home and registered a few domains (friendsofpollokpark.com), popped a basic Hugo site together, and got in touch with the owner of the current facebook group to get some of the content updated.

A month later, and a big uptick in the number of followers on the facebook group, the next meeting was standing room only. A fantastic result, and shows what social media can help achieve. Fingers crossed it’ll help get things progressing.

Slightly tricky part is the group is in a bit of an odd place just now: The council is trying to help the group to form (as an unincorporated group), so it can move forward under it’s own committee. Understandably attendees want to raise many of the issues with the park and see it progress, but it’s hard to see that happening without a committee making decisions and working with members.

Hopefully the next few weeks will see some progress and an enthusiastic park user or two taking on the fantastic challenge to form a much needed advocacy group in the community.

Back

So after a few years away, I decided it was time to polish up my online profile. Currently starting to look about for new work challenges, and have started explore some new roles, opportunities and challenges. All quite exciting.

More will undoubtedly appear here as I get the hang of things, and rediscover my voice.