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Glasgow hosted a one-day conference looking at how unused areas of land in cities and urban environments can be transformed into vibrant and productive spaces for people to use and enjoy. 

‘Making More of What We’ve Got – Repurposing Unused and Underused Sites’ was held at Glasgow Caledonian University on Thursday 6 June, the ninth annual forum of the Central Scotland Green Network (CSGN). The event drew inspiration from across the globe, featuring contributions from a range of experts including Ohio-based researcher, Sandra Albro, leading urban ecologist, Mathew Frith, and Glasgow’s newly appointed and first ever city urbanist, Professor Brian Evans.

The conference, held jointly with the Scottish Land Commission, explored how areas of vacant and derelict land and other underused spaces within our towns and cities can be brought back to life to bring economic, environmental and social benefits to communities they touch.

Keith Geddes, Chair of the Central Scotland Green Network Trust (CSGNT), said: “The CSGN area holds over 9,000 hectares of vacant and derelict land, which is three quarters of Scotland’s total. We also have large areas of land associated with housing, business and transport which have little or no function. There is an opportunity to rejuvenate much of this land to make a positive impact across central Scotland.

“Our speakers presented inspiring international and local examples, and brought new ideas to breathe life back into vacant and derelict land and other underused spaces, creating useful and beneficial spaces that are better for health, wellbeing, urban biodiversity and climate change resilience.”

The conference was addressed by Mairi Gougeon, the Minister for Rural Affairs and the Natural Environment who in the run up to the event said: “As Europe’s largest green space project the Central Scotland Green Network is transforming central Scotland. One in three people in the CSGN area live within 500 metres of a derelict site so it’s vital to think differently about how we use our urban spaces and turn unused land into green space that benefits communities, biodiversity and can help tackle climate change.

That’s why I’m delighted to be speaking at the annual forum, which will help us generate and integrate new ideas to build a lasting legacy.”

The Scottish Land Commission and SEPA launched a new taskforce at the end of 2018 aimed at bringing thousands of acres of derelict and vacant land back into productive use. Hamish Trench, Chief Executive of the Scottish Land Commission, said “We know that many people right across Scotland’s communities live close to vacant and derelict sites that affect the daily quality of place and life.

“There are inspiring examples of re-use and regeneration, and the taskforce we have established to stimulate change demonstrates a real commitment and appetite across the public, private, community and social enterprise sectors to transform our approach to bringing sites back into productive use.

“We are delighted to support this event which reflects the leading role the CSGN is playing in this shared effort to make more of our land and enhance the environment and economy of central Scotland’s communities.”

As Europe’s largest greenspace initiative, the CSGN aims to transform the central belt into a place where the environment adds value to the economy and where people’s lives are enriched by its quality.  Stretching from Ayrshire, Inverclyde and Dunbartonshire in the west, to Fife and Lothians in the east, it encompasses 19 local authorities across 10,000 sq km and has the potential to benefit 3.8million people, equating to over two thirds of Scotland’s population.