Sunday, 21 September 2008

Sunday Herald: "I won't move out of my home for the 2014 games"

TEN  months after Glasgow rejoiced at being awarded the chance to be host city of the Commonwealth Games, a major regeneration project is under way to prepare for the Games and to transform the city's poorest areas. There is just one hitch: the last remaining residents in the area earmarked as the athlete's village are refusing to move out.

On Ardenlea Street in Dalmarnock the tenement row lies empty, neglected and crying out for demolition.

For the past five years Margaret Jaconelli, 50, her husband Jack, 50, and her 15-year-old son, Aarron, have been the only residents of the tenement block. Everyone else has been re-housed as part of the Clyde Gateway Project over five years ago, but Jaconelli refuses to move.

"I feel isolated because we don't have any neighbours. I have become a recluse. I don't even have a postcode any more, the gardens are littered with rubbish and no-one comes to clean it up. It's almost as if we no longer exist."

With the Commonwealth Games approaching, the city council is desperate to demolish the whole street, but Jaconelli says she will stay until she receives the compensation she believes she is due. She says she has so far been offered only an 80% ownership of a house in Cranhill, which she has turned down.

"I just feel like the council are coming in and taking my life away, my house away," she says. "They are not interested in me, I'm just a wee person and they think they can just walk all over me. At the end of the day they can all go back to their homes in the evening, but this is my home, my livelihood, it's all I have got."

Councillor George Redmond says there is an end in sight and that will be in the form of a Compulsory Purchase Order (CPO) on the property: "It is in no-one's interest that Margaret and her family remain there, especially after all this time. I am sympathetic to a point, but this is a larger issue. The local area needs certainty so that the games can take place and Ardenlea Street needs to be demolished. For the greater good of the area someone needs to take it on the chin."

Redmond claims a CPO has been placed on the property, but Jaconelli and her lawyer deny this.

Lawyer, James M Carmichael stated: "No CPO has been served on Margaret and if there was there would need to be time to contest it and to seek adequate compensation. I actually wish they would serve a CPO on the property so I can take it to the Sheriff's Court and we can get the issue finalised and make sure Margaret gets the adequate and rightful compensation that she is due."

Meanwhile, back at her ground-floor flat in the derelict street, Jaconelli is hoping for a solution to be made soon so she can move on with her life.

"We have been in limbo all this time - I am frightened to leave this house unoccupied for more than a few hours. The surrounding empty flats are continually broken into, vandalised and set on fire. We need to move on from here."

As winter approaches, the family is not looking forward to another winter in the flat. "For the past five winters my heating bills have been sky high, I am effectively heating the whole tenement," Jaconelli says, but she remains defiant. "I'm not budging. If the council don't give me the proper compensation that I deserve then I won't be moving anywhere. I will sit right here till 2014 and watch the Commonwealth Games from my window."

11:30pm Saturday 20th September 2008

Sunday, 24 August 2008

Best laid plans Part 2

Everything is going to plan for the Commonwealth Games - see articles below (don't worry, as costs rise, we'll pick up the bill).

From the Sunday Times:

Funding shortfall hits Glasgow Games

A key venue for the 2014 Glasgow Commonwealth Games faces a funding shortfall after the credit crunch scuppered plans to raise the cash through a land sale.
(Full article here)

From the Sunday Herald:

Crossrail project in doubt due to rising costs

A PROJECT dubbed the "missing piece in Scotland's rail jigsaw" that aims to improve east-west links looks in serious doubt as the government prepares to announce its priorities in the Strategic Transport Projects Review (STPR).
Ministers can expect a bruising row if Crossrail has been dropped, after an earlier study concluded that it would be worth over £1bn to the Scottish economy over 60 years, and passenger use purely at Glasgow High Street, which would become a transport hub, would be three million. It was also seen as vital for improving access to Glasgow and Prestwick airports, particularly in the run-up to the Commonwealth Games in 2014, by when it was due to be finished.

(Full article here)

And finally, another from the Sunday Times:

Credit crunch makes Clydeside work dry up

A few hundred yards from Glasgow city centre, work is progressing on a flagship project as part of the regeneration of the River Clyde.


The Tradeston site is in the process of being cleared but no date has been fixed on when building will start. On the opposite bank, the developer Gladedale has put on hold its speculative project, a £150m office development at Broomielaw.

Further along the river, at Custom House Quay, a £200m development by the Australian entrepreneur Rodney Price has been in limbo for two years after plans for a 200-bedroom hotel were rejected. The architect RMJM admits it still has no firm starting date.

And as the Sunday Times reveals today, Elphinstone village, the ambitious £350m development on the west side of the Scottish Exhibition and Conference Centre (SECC), is the latest to go on hold. Planning consent was finally given in May just as the credit crunch was beginning to hit housebuilders hard. The result was that Elphinstone cannot realise the value of the site from potential developers in the current climate.

The SECC had been banking on receipts from that scheme to finance the Lord Foster-designed £70m, 12,500-seater arena set to be a significant part of the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games.

“It is frustrating that having waited so long for consent, it came at this time but there is no point in selling it at less than its value,” said Pete Selman, project director at Elphinstone. “There is no doubt that location is perfect and iconic. Hopefully we can still find a way to make it happen.”
These projects are at the heart of the £5 billion regeneration of Clydeside — but are the downturn and credit crunch threatening to derail long-term plans to bring life back to Glasgow’s riverside?

(Full article here)

Friday, 25 July 2008

TES: "Swimming hopefuls left high and dry"

Times Education Supplement: Swimming hopefuls left high and dry

Emma Seith

Published: 25 July 2008

Funding plug is pulled on Commonwealth medallists’ club that balanced training and school demands

Many of scotland’s most promising young swimmers will never fulfil their potential, following the closure of the Commonwealth Pool in Edinburgh, predicts a British Olympic team swimming coach.

Frederic Vergnoux launched a scathing attack this week on the sport’s governing body in Scotland after his club, which is based at the pool, was forced to close because its funding was withdrawn.

World-class swimming in the capital is dead, he said, because Scottish Swimming has axed funding for City of Edinburgh Swimming, whose members include Commonwealth medallists Kirsty Balfour and Gregor Tait.

Mr Vergnoux, who has been head coach since January 2005 and seen his swimmers break 110 national, Commonwealth and European records, is leaving after the Beijing Olympics to take up a job at the Racing Club of France in Paris, but says he would rather have stayed in Scotland.

The club will close next month, with nothing lined up locally to replace it, said Mr Vergnoux.

The consequences will be particularly dire for younger swimmers as the club played a vital role in helping them balance their sport with their school work, he claimed.

Scottish Swimming withdrew its financial support earlier this year because the Royal Commonwealth Pool is closing next year to be refurbished for the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow.

“If you support performance swimming at the highest level, the facility is one of the biggest parts of it,” said Scottish Swimming’s performance director, Ally Whike.

Instead of investing in Edinburgh, Scottish Swimming was investing in facilities in other parts of the country, he said.

“We have engaged sports consultants KKP (Knight, Kavanagh and Page) to work with the local clubs on putting together another performance organisation,” he said, but such an organisation would not come into being until 2011 at the earliest, when the new pool is scheduled to reopen.

Edinburgh City Council’s funding support of £150,000 over three years was earmarked for developing swimmers for the Olympics, and that, too, has ceased.

A spokesman for the council said it was working with its leisure trust company and schools to offer alternative facilities while the Commonwealth Pool is closed.

Mr Vergnoux, who was named coach of the year for Scotland and Great Britain for the past two years, told The TESS: “When you swim in my programme, you do 10 sessions in and 10 sessions out of the water: weights and running. It’s a full-time job, but on top of that you have to go to school. If you don’t work with the school and have a weekly plan, they won’t help you.

“We can say, ‘This kid is a good swimmer at their level and they need to train and compete. Help us get them an education too’. There will be no programme providing what we provide at the moment.”

Megan Gilchrist is one of the young swimmers who has benefited from Mr Vergnoux’s programme.

She left Whitburn Academy in West Lothian this year and Mr Vergnoux expects her to make it to the 2012 British Olympic team.

She will “certainly” represent Scotland at the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow in 2014, he predicts. “Megan’s school was so supportive. We had a system where she did the full programme with us and the school provided tutoring. Sometimes a teacher would be at the pool side when she finished training.”

Lucy Ellis, currently a member of Dunedin club and a pupil at Inver­keithing High, could miss out from that kind of support, he said.

Lindsay Roy, former headteacher of Inverkeithing High, who has followed Lucy’s progress, commended programmes such as that created by Mr Vergnoux.

“It is a sound approach because it makes sure sporting youngsters are balanced with an appropriate input into their education, both in terms of time in school and time devoted to homework,” he said.

Saturday, 19 July 2008

"The Olympics Scam"

From City Strolls:

"This is East London, four years short of that 17-day corporate extravaganza, the 'primary strategic objective' to which we are all so deeply mortgaged. Haggerston Park, E2, a modest enclosure replacing war-damaged terraces and the demolished Imperial Gas, Light and Coke Company, has long been an oasis. It was opened as a public park in 1958. Its scandals are old scandals and have no bearing on the current frenzy for makeovers, peppery paths, wooden obstacles for training circuits, laminated heritage notices. Spanking new carpets are woven for clapped-out football pitches, changing rooms erected to replace shower blocks opened in the dark ages by Wendy Richard of EastEnders. Back in the 1820s Gas Company funds were misappropriated, illegal payments made to council officials and stock accounts falsified. Now, in more enlightened times, when bureaucratic malpractice is exposed and celebrated every day, urban-pastoral reservations hidden behind high walls win prizes for visionary planting schemes and restored municipal beds. Unnoticed, rough sleepers in thin bags utilise the stone terrace of the park cafĂ© that has been shut for years. Late risers, having nothing much to rise for, burrow deep into dismal kapok-stuffed cocoons, while dog-accompanists use ballistic/prosthetic devices to hurl soggy yellow-green tennis balls for their hunt-and-retrieve pets. And the stoic Chinese couple, accomplishing their own version of the Long March, scorch rubber treadmarks around the padlocked novelty of the pristine football pitches. Artificial grass is better than the real thing, tougher, each blade individually painted. False chlorophyll dazzles like permanent dew, the permafrost of conspicuous investment. Some of the rough sleepers are not elective invisibles, victims of property mania or traumatised war veterans: they are construction workers, possibly Polish, saving their wages and choosing to kip down close to where the action is. The tsunami of speculative capital, wanton destruction, hole digging; the throwing up of apartment blocks, dormitory hives, warehouse conversions along the murky waterways. A new development calling itself Adelaide Wharf, and appearing very much like an aircraft-carrier that has ploughed into a wood yard, replaced a long-standing cold-store operation. 'With its 147 units (prices up to £395,000), this is a tremendous example of aspiration coming to fruition,' says Stephen Oakes, area director for English Partnerships. Inch by inch, the working canal between Limehouse Basin and the Islington tunnel has become a ladder of glass, connecting Docklands with the northern reaches of the City. Footballers, with loose change to invest, are rumoured to be buying up entire buildings as investment portfolios; many of these gaudy shells, low-ceilinged, tight-balconied, are doomed to remain half-empty, exhibitions of themselves. The look is mirthlessly playful, Ikea storage boxes gimmicked out of swipe-cards and toothpicks. The urban landscape of boroughs anywhere within the acoustic footprints of the Olympic Park in the Lower Lea Valley has been devastated, with a feverish beat-the-clock impatience unseen in London since the beginnings of the railway age. Every civic decency, every sentimental attachment, is swept aside for that primary strategic objective, the big bang of the starter's pistol."

Full article here and here

Sunday, 6 July 2008

Best laid plans...

From Scotland on Sunday:

Glasgow 'will struggle to sell properties' to raise £100m for 2014 Games

Published Date: 06 July 2008
By Nathalie Thomas

CONCERNS are growing that Glasgow City Council will be unable to raise up to £100m towards the 2014 Commonwealth Games due to a decline in interest for regeneration projects.

The council is hoping to raise funds from the sale of 56 "surplus sites". But commercial property experts warn that, given the current state of the market, it is unlikely the properties, which include several former schools, will achieve anywhere near the expected sum.

The market has been slowing down and prices falling and few expect a recovery until next spring at the earliest.

There are also mounting fears that the council will not be able to find an appropriate private sector partner for the sales, which it is proposing to carry out through a joint venture. With many of the major building companies suffering severe financial strain, sources say there is no appetite for the project. If it fails to get off the ground, sources warn that the council is going to fall short of the £375m cost of the Games. Around 80% is expected to be met by the Scottish Government, with Glasgow City Council providing the rest. One leading commercial property consultant said: "I'm not sure there is an appetite for the joint venture in the commercial sector. If it doesn't happen, they are short of a fairly serious capital receipt."Another source said: "Companies that tend to get involved with these joint venture projects rely on banks and debt financing, and that's incredibly hard to get your hands on these days. It doesn't surprise me that they'll experience difficulties."

David Bell, director of the public sector group at CB Richard Ellis, warned that regeneration projects are always the first to fall by the wayside during economic downturns due to the higher risks involved. "They are now really quite peripheral in this market," he said.

A spokeswoman for Glasgow City Council said the process of finding a joint venture partner is "still ongoing". She added that the money raised through the sales will go towards supporting "a number of the council's priorities", including the Commonwealth Games, but a specific proportion of the £100m has not been earmarked for the sporting event in 2014.

The deadline for proposals was March 14. It is understood the council wants to transfer all 56 surplus sites to the new joint venture by the end of the current financial year.

The news comes just a few weeks after Lend Lease, the Australian developer working on the £1bn Olympic Village in London, admitted it has so far not been able to raise the £450m it needs to fund the site in Stratford. Lenders are increasingly reluctant to back the project because they fear falling property prices could lead to them not regaining all of their money.

And from Halifax, more news about the failed Canadian bid:

Bid report bang on — councillors

Sun. Jul 6 - 11:29 AM

A handful of municipal councillors feel the findings of an independent review of Halifax’s failed 2014 Commonwealth Games bid are bang on.

The councillors that The Chronicle Herald spoke to Saturday admitted that they haven’t had a chance to read the entire report, which was released to the public Friday. But they said everything they have heard so far backs up their earlier complaints about the bid process.

"I don’t disagree with anything they said," Coun. Andrew Younger (East Dartmouth-The Lakes) said of the review by the Public Policy Forum in Ottawa. "Their findings are exactly the same things that myself and a number of other councillors complained about from early on."

The nine-page report highlights a number of problems with Halifax’s $1.7-billion bid, primarily its lack of transparency.

"It was very frustrating," Mr. Younger said. "I’m sure members of the legislature felt the same way. MLAs, councillors, none of us knew anything about the bid.

"We’re supposed to be the guardians of the public purse, yet nobody would tell us anything."
Coun. Gloria McCluskey said it was "ridiculous" to think that everything had to be kept hush-hush so as not to tip off the competing cities of Glasgow, Scotland, and Abuja, Nigeria.

"Something that’s handled like that, to me, is doomed to failure," said the Dartmouth Centre representative. However, Ms. McCluskey said not all the blame can be put on the bid committee.
"Everybody was sworn to secrecy," Ms. McCluskey said. "That’s the biggest mistake I made was agreeing to that going the way it went."

Coun. Sheila Fougere (Connaught-Quinpool) said the failed bid should be used as a learning tool.
"No matter how you look at it, from beginning to end, it ended up being a huge disappointment," she said. "But there are lessons to be learned from it.

"Secrecy and lack of transparency . . . it just breeds distrust and discontent. Whereas if you put everything above board, people have the opportunity to not only react but to perhaps react in a positive way."

Mr. Younger agreed any Canadian city thinking about hosting an international event could learn a lot from this, especially what needs to be in place before the city signs on.

"I don’t think as a country we can be bidding on international events of this magnitude without early in the process knowing how much the federal and respective provincial governments are going to contribute to the bid and what facilities are needed," he said.

Mr. Younger also criticized Ottawa for only offering money for recreation facilities if Halifax agreed to take on the bid.

"If a community needs facilities, the federal government should be there as a partner, regardless of whether there is a major event coming," he said.


Saturday, 5 July 2008

Halifax Games would have cost $2.2B

From the Times and Transcript of New Brunswick:

HALIFAX - The 2014 Commonwealth Games would have cost $2.2 billion if Halifax had followed through on its bid and been chosen as host, Nova Scotia's health promotion minister said yesterday.

Barry Barnet made the revelation after a report released yesterday stated that even the people who signed the cheques on the cancelled Halifax bid were kept in the dark about escalating costs.

The Nova Scotia government and Halifax Regional Municipality pulled the plug on the bid in March 2007 after the estimated cost reached $1.7 billion. Glasgow, Scotland, eventually won the Games.

Monday, 16 June 2008

Do the maths

Glasgow contribution to the Commonwealth Games will be £56 million - just remember that has nothing to do with this:

Council set for £50m cutbacks

GLASGOW City Council will have to slash £50million from its budget over the next couple of years, council leader Steven Purcell has revealed.

A number of factors means that next year the city will have almost £20m less than it needs to meet essential spending.

The following year the shortfall is almost £30m.

To avert a potential cash crisis, directors in council departments have been told to find £25m of savings for each of the following two years.

The bulk of the cuts will be in education and social work, the departments that have the largest budgets.

However, Mr Purcell today made three big pledges to city residents and council staff. He promised:

Frontline services would not be hit by the cuts.

Only around 25 middle management jobs would go through natural wastage and voluntary redundancy. There would be no compulsory redundancies.

The staging of the Commonwealth Games would not be at risk.

Mr Purcell has taken the unusual step of telling staff and opposition councillors of the financial pressures facing the council over the next couple of years.

He said: "No matter how difficult public finance gets over the next few years we are committed to providing the core services that are important to the city. These are: getting people back into work, improving educational attainment and better public health."

Mr Purcell said the jobs axe was likely to fall on some of the council's 250 middle managers, but the vast majority of the council's 32,000 staff would be safe.

In recent years, the council has merged departments, slashing a substantial numbers of senior managers, and has cut the number of highly paid directors from 10 to five.

In 2006/07 the city was forced to slash spending by £60m and cut a further £40m the following year.

Mr Purcell said the £25m cut needed next year represented only 2.5% of the overall budget, against cuts of 4-6% in previous years.

A priority for the council in the next couple of years will be to continue streamlining services, ensuring they are as effective as possible.

But Mr Purcell said funding for the 2014 Games would not be at risk from the cuts.

Over the next six years, the council will fund £56m of the £288m cost of staging the Games, with the remainder being picked up by the Scottish Government.

The council leader defended funding of the event and said the long-term benefit to the city would be massive.

He said: "For example, the Games is allowing us - for the first time since the rebuilding of the city after the Second World War - to guarantee every school leaver a modern apprenticeship next year, with a substantial number of them in construction."

This year, the council will spend £2.5billion delivering a wide range of services, from education and social work to parks and planning.

But it has come under financial pressure in a range of areas, including higher than anticipated inflation, the credit crunch and soaring bills for fuel, gas and electricity.

The council will also be hit by the huge number of police officers expected to retire in the next couple of years.

In 2009-10 it will have to find almost £10.8m more to fund its share of the cost of paying police pensions, bringing its total contribution towards the running of Strathclyde Police to £121m.

The following year, the higher than normal number of retiring officers will mean the council will have to find a further £7m.

Despite the gloomy cash situation, Mr Purcell is determined the people of Glasgow will not suffer.

Mr Purcell believes the bulk of the savings can be made by improving efficiency and reducing bureaucracy within the council.

He said: "When I became leader of the council three years ago one of the things I wanted the council to start doing was to have a real examination of every penny we spend and to do that on a regular basis."

8:02am Thursday 22nd May 2008

Friday, 21 March 2008

Edinburgh to demolish Velodrome

From Cycling Weekly:


Thursday 20th March 2008 - Keith Bingham

Edinburgh's Meadowbank Velodrome, built for the 1970 Commonwealth Games, is to be demolished and luxury flats built on the site.

But while campaigners have reacted angrily, accusing Edinburgh Council of ignoring public opinion and sporting legacy, the Scottish Cycling Union has pulled its punches recording only “disappointment at the decision of Edinburgh City Council to demolish Meadowbank Velodrome.”

Jackie Davidson, SCU Performance Director, admitted to Cycling Weekly that they didn't want to have doors shut in their face as they go looking for backing to support a broader provision of cycling facilities.

“What we've been working towards in terms of a facilities strategy is looking across the whole of the provision for the East of Scotland. “And it's clear from what's happening with Edinburgh there are major challenges both in terms of financing their programmes and I think that has been an influencing factor.”

The future of the Velodrome has been in the balance for the past 18 months, but the word was that if it were to go, a replacement would be provided. But whatever plans there may have been for this - and there was talk of a concrete bowl – it is suspected that Meadowbank's fate was decided when Glasgow decided to build an indoor velodrome by 2010 and won the bid for the 2014 Commonwealth Games.

So while Glasgow gains, Edinburgh loses.

Campaigners say Edinburgh Council have decided it preferred a legacy of short-sighted downsizing and sell-off, over the public demand that Meadowbank be upgraded in its entirety and that this public land remains in public hands.

So much for Edinburgh's lasting Games legacy. Meadowbank has twice hosted the Commonwealth Games, in 1986 as well as '70.

In the 1970 Games Scotland's Brian Temple won silver in the 10-mile scratch race. In 1986, Scotland's Eddie Alexander took bronze in the sprint, while England's Colin Sturgess won silver in the individual pursuit and Chris Boardman led England's team pursuiters to bronze. Meadowbank also launched two Scots on their respective trajectories to Olympic and World titles.

Both Chris Hoy and Craig MacLean were introduced to track cycling there. Hoy went on to become Scotland's first Olympic champion in 24 years. After 38 years, perhaps that is to be Meadowbank's legacy to the sport.

Saturday, 23 February 2008

"Sports closures could affect Games benefit"

From the Press & Journal


Date : 23.02.08

Concerns have been raised that plans to close sports facilities in Aberdeen will impact on the benefit the Olympic and Commonwealth Games will have on the north-east.

Labour MSP Richard Baker has called on the SNP Government to take urgent action because the measures proposed by the city council could put off teams establishing training camps in the area.

He is also very concerned that the "shock and despair" already felt by people in the city over the measures to save £27million will not inspire young people to consider taking part in the 2014 Glasgow Commonwealth Games.

The Liberal Democrat/SNP-led council has agreed to cut funding for sports facilities and other services to save cash.

Bon Accord Baths is to close while the Lynx Ice Arena will be shut for a year, and many other leisure centres and pools in the city will be forced to reduce services.

Mr Baker, a north-east MSP, is raising his concerns with Sport and Communities Minister Stewart Maxwell because First Minister Alex Salmond has stated that the entire country will benefit from the two major events.

The council has previously stated it would be very keen to host training camps in the city.

Mr Baker said he had been inundated with correspondence from "furious" members of the public, stunned by the council's decision.

Opening times and staffing will be reduced to varying degrees at pools in Dyce, Bridge of Don, Hazlehead, Kincorth and Linksfield, and at the Sheddocksley and Jesmond sports centres.

Friday, 8 February 2008

From the Evening Times: Travellers face move from site on Games land

TRAVELLERS are to be moved off a site in Glasgow's East End to make way for the Commonwealth Games.

Families in Dalmarnock Road face being relocated after the city landed the 2014 event.
Ten families of showpeople live on the site, which is council-owned, but there is also uncertainty for scores more showpeople who work for fun fairs and live on other sites around the East End.
Nine of the area's other 20 travellers' sites are council-owned, with the rest in private hands. In total the East End is home to 175 travelling families.

The showpeople are having talks with Glasgow City Council about when and where they will be required to move.

Philip Paris, chairman of the Scottish branch of the Showmen's Guild, said residents were frustrated about the time it was taking to agree a solution.

His mother, who is 82, has never lived in a house and is a resident of the Dalmarnock Road site.
Mr Paris said: "The council has identified a couple of potential alternative sites, but it will not tell anyone where they are.

"We do not want to stand in the way of progress, but it is a little annoying nothing more definite is coming forward."

The travellers are also worried discussions have been going on so long that the council could issue a Compulsory Purchase Order on the land, leaving them homeless.

Most of the residents live on the Dalmarnock Road site all year round and travel to fairs in the summer. Their children go to local schools.

An athletes village is to be built in Dalmarnock, which will provide accommodation for 7000 athletes during the three weeks of the Games. After the event the accommodation will be sold to housing associations.

A spokesman for the council's Clyde Gateway project, which is spearheading the area's regeneration, confirmed it was discussing alternative sites for the families.

But he refused to reveal their location because it was a "commercially sensitive issue".
He said a Compulsory Purchase Order would be used only as a last resort.

8:35am Thursday 7th February 2008

By Sarah Swain