Plans for Glasgow Connectivity Commission to transform city centre

Measures to transform Glasgow’s city centre and cement its role as one of the leading destinations in Europe will be considered by a new, high-powered commission.

Leader of Glasgow City Council Susan Aitken will today (November 24th) announce the establishment of the Connectivity Commission, an independent body with a remit to rethink the city centre as a destination for business, retail and leisure.

The group will be spearheaded by former Government transport advisor Professor David Begg and will include leaders and practitioners from the worlds of business, transport, academia and the third sector.

It will be challenged to generate bold, fresh ideas to transform Scotland’s biggest city; making it a more liveable and breathable place which is even more attractive to visitors, businesses and citizens.

Launched at the annual State of the City Economy conference, over the next 12 months the Commission will explore challenges and opportunities with the city centre’s public realm; congestion and pollution levels, and public transport patronage.

Its findings will then be presented to the council with the aim of improving the experience of those who use Glasgow city centre and ensuring it remains an attractive global destination in the decades ahead.

The Commission includes representatives from the Glasgow Chamber of Commerce, Scottish Council for Development and Industry, Transform Scotland, Glasgow University and the City Centre Retail Association.

Councillor Aitken said: “The Glasgow Connectivity Commission has the crucial job of improving the city centre experience for all, which offers fantastic economic opportunity for the city.

“Their remit is their largely own but we anticipate transformative proposals on making Glasgow city centre more attractive for visitors, an improved experience for business, leisure and retail.

“These proposals can help us to further develop the local economy and ensure all of Glasgow’s people can share in the prosperity created in the city centre.

“I am delighted that the Commission will be led by Professor Begg, one of the UK’s most prominent transport experts, and his appointment is a statement of our intent to cut pollution and congestion while delivering inclusive economic growth.”

Professor Begg said: “One of the remits of the Commission will be to have a transport network which contributes both to a stronger economy, a healthier environment and social equity. These are the three key outcomes we will look to deliver.

“In order to achieve that we need to get more people onto public transport, walking and cycling, we need more quality pedestrian space and public realm to improve the retail environment and city centre experience and cleaner vehicles.

“We need to both arrest decline and improve Glasgow’s offer. The Greater Glasgow area has such a fantastic urban rail network but if you live in a community which is not on the network and don’t have a car they are pretty marginalised. That must be addressed.

“I look forward to working with partners in the Connectivity Commission to help Glasgow deliver on its ambitions.”

Stuart Patrick, Chief Executive of Glasgow Chamber of Commerce, said: “Glasgow City Centre is the engine room of the regional economy.

“It is where so many of our successful businesses operate, where visitors come for the hotels, shops, bars, clubs, theatres and restaurants and where so much of our talent is educated. Glasgow Chamber of Commerce wants to see the city centre flourish with growing footfall, more jobs and increased business investment.

“This Commission is an opportunity to take a fresh look at how this can be achieved responding to the changing expectations of consumers, business and Glasgow citizens.”

Scottish Government Minister for Transport and the Islands, Humza Yousaf said: “The Glasgow Connectivity Commission, led by Professor David Begg, will generate fresh ideas for the city and beyond on how to encourage residents on to public transport and increase travel by walking and cycling. I welcome his appointment and the expertise he will bring to the commission.

“This is another positive step in the right direction and I’m delighted that Glasgow has committed to have their low emission zone in place by the end of 2018. We are working to ensure Scotland’s four biggest cities will have a LEZ in place by the end of 2020.

“The decline of bus patronage is a trend which has impacted Glasgow and the South West most acutely, and I look forward to working with the commission to help ensure that this trend is reversed and that communities can continue to benefit from sustainable bus services.

“The Scottish Government will double the active travel budget from £40 to £80 million next year in our pursuit to build an active nation. This involves making our towns and cities safer and more pleasant spaces for cyclists and pedestrians and appointing an Active Nation Commissioner to ensure delivery of world class active travel infrastructure in Glasgow and across Scotland.”

The conference, held at the Radisson Blu hotel in Glasgow city centre, will see over 700 members of the business, government, and academic sectors gather together to listen to keynote speakers Councillor Aitken, Leader of Glasgow City Council and Derek Mackay, Minister for Finance and the Constitution.

These keynote speakers were joined by Dr Susie Mitchell, Glasgow Science Centre; Professor Neal Juster, University of Glasgow; Steve Dunlop, Scottish Canals; and James Ledgerwood, Scotrail, for a panel discussion on issues raised at the conference.

Other issues explored at today’s conference include the council’s intention to commission research on likely economic scenarios for Glasgow as a result of Brexit, greater engagement between the council and the digital sector and the development of a social enterprise strategy.

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