About 12,000 hectares in Scotland are classified as vacant and derelict, which equals the size of over 9000 football pitches. Within these areas lies a huge, underachieved potential to contribute to health, the economy and tackle environmental problems. The Central Scotland Green Network Forum 2019, that took place on the 6th of June in Glasgow, addressed these issues by bringing together communities, Councils, researchers, community groups and other interested parties to share knowledge, lessons learned and case studies.

The Forum started with a welcome from the CSGNT Board (Stuart Trait) and Chair (Keith Geddes) as well as some introductory words from Mairi Gougeon (Minister for Rural Affairs and the Natural Environment) highlighting the importance to develop the potential of vacant and derelict land.

The first Keynote by Prof Brian Evans (City Urbanist of Glasgow and Head of Urbanism in Glasgow School of Art) outlined important stages in the history of regional and city planning and encouraged us  to follow the principles of the pioneering Scottish landscape architect Ian McHarg to “design with nature” by combining city and nature and not dealing with them separately.  This approach needs a shift in thinking from “land” as a tradable good to “the land” as the inhabitant’s legacy. He stressed the value of regional strategic planning, within the context of  the place principle as well as today’s Zeitgeist – demography, technology and climate change; and stressed the importance of good solid Design. .

Participants had the opportunity to make site visits in Glasgow and Lanarkshire or attend workshop sessions, dealing with the topics productive green uses for vacant and derelict land, repurposing public spaces for community growing, health or green active travel.  

greenspace scotland’s Julie Procter led a workshop entitled “Reimagining the health state” to share and discuss recent work with NHS Lothian around use of its estate for health delivery as well as for integration into the wider green network.

The afternoon was covered by several keynotes. Hamish Trench (Chief Executive of Scottish Land Commission) made the start by giving an overview of the extent and state of vacant and derelict land and introducing the new Taskforce “Not so pretty vacant”, that has been set up in partnership with SEPA, to bring vacant and derelict sites back into productive use.

After this Simon Rennie (Chief Executive of CSGNT) gave an overview of the Network’s highlights in the past and present, followed by Sandra Albro (Research Associate in Holden Forests & Gardens, Cleveland) who shared examples from abroad. Her project “from vacant to vibrant” repurposes vacant residential parcels in Cleveland to joint stormwater management and neighbourhood recreational sites. Afterwards the recipients of the CSGN Young Persons Travel Grant Gemma Kitson, Stefan Maurice and Lee Haywood shared their experiences from their travels with the audience. In the last Keynote, given by Mathew Frith (Director of Conservation, London Wildlife Trust), the audience was introduced to successful exemplary projects in London that repurposed vacant and derelict land to public areas with a recreational benefits for the citizens and new habitats for wildlife.

A common theme throughout the mapping used in the talks, be they set in the CSGN geography, London or Cleveland Ohio, was a stark correlation between poor access to greenspace and poverty.