Claypits on the Glasgow Canal is one of several projects that used NatureScot’s ERDF Green Infrastructure Fund to transform sites whilst making a valuable contribution to the triple crises of health, climate change, and biodiversity.

    The Fund enables projects that are built on community co-design to create multi-functional greenspaces on a major scale, to tackle issues associated with multiple deprivation, such as health inequalities. Claypits and Fernbrae Meadows are excellent examples of how good practice can produce valued, rejuvenated places.

    Located 1km north of the city centre, the Glasgow Canal dates from the latter part of the 18th century, part of a network that provided a key trade route between the east and west coasts. It closed in 1963 and fell into a state of disrepair. As part of the millennium celebrations UK National Lottery funding was used to reopen the canal network with a focus on providing a recreational and leisure resource, and also to help regeneration of adjacent communities. Some of the communities in North Glasgow, for example, record some of the worst health statistics in Scotland.

    Since 2000 there has been growing community and stakeholder interest in the Glasgow Canal, with many recognising the area’s potential. In 2015 Land Use Consultants (LUC) was appointed to undertake a charrette that focused on the Glasgow Canal corridor and surrounding communities. This involved an intensive four day ‘What Floats Your Boat?’ event. The charrette comprised a series of site walkovers, presentations, iterative group workshops and an art outreach project. The charrette process, together with feedback obtained at follow up events, informed the establishment of a vision, and a cohesive and consensual development framework for the canal corridor. The desire was to create an accessible, meaningful, and multifunctional linear greenspace along the canal that would better connect adjacent communities and offer the opportunity for improved health and wellbeing.

    Claypits charrette workshop

    LUC thereafter developed a Green Infrastructure masterplan for a 17ha area of Vacant and Derelict Land that straddled the canal and was colloquially known as the ‘Claypits’ due its former use for extracting clay to line the canal. Site ownership was split between Scottish Canals and Glasgow City Council. Both parties supported the development of the masterplan based on the strength of support demonstrated from the charrette process.
    The underlying design principles of the Claypits Green Infrastructure Masterplan were to:

    • improve pedestrian and cycling connectivity between various adjacent communities and their respective facilities including overcoming the barrier and constraints presented by the canal and associated topography;
    • improve the health and wellbeing of local communities through encouraging active travel, activity and facilitating access to a significant new greenspace;
    • enhance existing self-established habitats and improve biodiversity;
    • facilitate future sustainable development via the integration of SuDS and service infrastructure;
    • Celebrate the unique heritage and culture of the canal and its surroundings.

    Some priority projects and ‘quick wins’ were implemented during 2017 to demonstrate commitment and momentum; construction of the main masterplan components commenced in 2019 once funding had been secured from various partners including Sustrans and Nature Scot’s Green Infrastructure Fund. Construction continued for 2 years (through the Covid pandemic) and the site was formally opened to the public in July 2021.
    LUC’s masterplan proposals sought to harness the significant potential and unique character of the existing Claypits site to provide an attractive, accessible and multi-functional greenspace. Masterplan components include:

    • Over 1.5km of new pedestrian and cycle path infrastructure;
    • Several bridges and boardwalks, including a noteworthy new retractable bridge across the canal
    • Extensive tree planting;
    • Significant SuDS infrastructure integrated with Glasgow’s Smart Canal scheme;
    • Play and other features to encourage activity;
    • Furniture, signage and wayfinding;
    • Residential moorings on the canal.
    Entrance to Claypits Local Nature Reserve

    One of the most positive outcomes of the project is that the Claypits, once Vacant and Derelict Land, has now been designated as a Local Nature Reserve, the only inner-city nature reserve in Glasgow. An enthusiastic and committed volunteer community group, which represented community interests during the design process, will take on the longer-term management of the project.
    Since it opened in July 2021 the Claypits has proved to be immensely popular with the local community and attracts visitors from all over the city. It offers a unique environment for local residents to explore and spend time especially those who are disadvantaged and rarely get a chance to leave the city. The Claypits now encourage health and wellbeing through facilitating and encouraging walking, cycling, play and activity as well as providing a providing a ‘natural’ greenspace aiding mental health. The increased in biodiversity and flood alleviation potential are fitting COP26-related legacies for the host city.

    New canal side walkway at Claypits Local Nature Reserve

     

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