Snuggled in beside the main Glasgow to Paisley rail and motorway routes sits Queensland Court and Gardens. It’s a Cardonald landmark, two imposing tower blocks dating back over 50 years. Half a century on from their construction, major works are underway to improve the surrounding greenspace and create a new community park.
The ambition is to work with nature, and improve the appeal of the valuable but under-used spaces which surround the blocks. Where neat trees and grass areas once dominated something a little more exciting is planned for the future. Southside Housing Association and Glasgow City Council through the City Deal backed Metropolitan Glasgow Strategic Drainage Partnership (MGSDP), are driving the changes.
New tree planting will improve the all year round aesthetic value of the park, increase biodiversity and provide shade, a play park and pump track for bikes will emerge, and natural play areas will be created. Drainage systems promise to better manage rain water and handle potential flooding incidents. There will be seating to encourage residents to spend more time enjoying being outdoors in nature.
The green infrastructure plans are certainly a dramatic departure from what has gone before. The area feels ready to grasp new ideas and the project has already scooped a Building with Nature National Award.
Pauline Fletcher, Director of Housing and Communities at Southside Housing Association, has high hopes for Queensland Community Park. “My aspirations are that ultimately people will spend time outside together, and get to know each other a little better,” she notes. “I think that’s an aspect of community life which has been lost a little of late. More children as staying at home and doing their own thing - be it watching television or spending time on devices, a result of perhaps feeling there are limited opportunities here to get out and play.
“Although quite a nice looking site, it is bland and uninspiring, pretty flat, with some trees and well-tended grassy areas, but it doesn’t offer anything particularly interesting or exciting which might draw you out of your home to play. And it isn’t just young people we want to cater for, I’d like to see areas where adults can sit out and socialise when the weather is fair. That’s a recipe for getting to know other people and for feeling part of a stronger community.”
That mix of residents is striking at Queensland Court. There are youngster looking for play opportunities and older residents simply wanting somewhere to sit, relax and socialise.
Margaret moved to the area when it was built. “I lived in a tenement in Tradeston with my family before we moved here over 50 years ago when the blocks were built. I can’t speak highly enough of Southside Housing Association, they came to us with a desire to redesign the surrounding area rather than us pushing for it. When I arrived it was just grass and roses, nice enough, but it didn’t offer much to entertain youngsters. It did have a sense of community in those early days mind you, a lot of our old neighbours came with us from Tradeston, so that helped us all settle in. If we get an outdoor area to sit and chat in that will be great and help bond the community.”
It’s not far from Queensland to Halfway Community Park, another Southside Housing Association project. “There is a familiarity in this new project for us,” Pauline concedes. “We’ve been through the process, are working with many of the same funders, and knew many of the hurdles we would have to overcome. That said there were some new challenges here, Covid was a huge issue and in the aftermath costs have rocketed, so much so that costs came in way over budget. It took a period of sitting down and talking with potential funders and contractors to get to a point where we had a vision in which costs and ambitions matched.”
The project aims to complete in June. At that point a twelve-month maintenance contract kicks in which will cover things like grass cutting, defect fixing, and weeding.
Pauline’s vision for the future is one in which a resident’s group will become increasingly influential. Southside Housing Association, the main contractor (R J MacLeod), and residents will meet regularly to discuss issues and progress. The residents lounge will be a melting pot for ideas and ambitions.
There’s plenty of reason to be optimistic about the future at Queensland, Pauline senses a community eager to seize this new opportunity. “At our ‘breaking ground’ ceremony in February it was nice to see new faces,” said Pauline. “Hopefully what they heard on the day will have encouraged them, and the promise of what they saw in a brochure will now start to materialise into physical changes on the ground. That should be an inspiration for everyone.”