Glasgow is set host to 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’ will be held at Glasgow Caledonian University on Thursday 6 June and is the ninth annual forum of the Central Scotland Green Network (CSGN). The event will draw 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, Brian Evans.

The conference, held jointly with the Scottish Land Commission, will explore how areas of vacant and derelict land can be brought back to life to bring economic, environmental and social benefits to communities they touch.

Sandra Albro, a research associate in urban ecology from Holden Forests & Gardens in Cleveland, will discuss how communities in Ohio, Indiana and New York have been engaged in pilot raingarden projects on vacant plots. The projects aim to slow down the flow of water after heavy rainfall which has been flushing raw sewage from overwhelmed Victorian sewer systems into the nearby Great Lakes. The project has also been tackling social inequality, teaming up with neighbourhoods that are experiencing decline rather than those that are stable and wealthy.

Mathew Frith, director of conservation from London Wildlife Trust, will be drawing on 35 years of learning from London to explore repurposing public and open spaces. Projects include those which began in the 1980s such as the Camley Street Natural Park, a former coal drop for the railways near King’s Cross that had turned into a flower-rich wasteland and was rescued from plans in 1981 to turn the space into a lorry park, to more recent projects such as Woodberry Wetlands, an operating reservoir which has been carefully transformed into an urban wetland oasis and opened to the public for the first time since it was built in 1833.

Brian Evans is the head of urbanism at the Glasgow School of Art, recognised internationally as one of Europe’s leading schools of studio-based learning and research, and will be setting the scene by exploring how environmental thinking has developed in Scotland. Evans will look back to influential Scottish environmentalists such as John Muir, Patrick Geddes and notably Ian McHarg whose pioneering book, Design with Nature, was published 50 years ago, discussing their relevance to current calls for towns and cities to integrate more nature to become better connected, healthier and more sustainable.

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 these spaces to make a positive impact across central Scotland.

“Our speakers will present inspiring international and local examples, and bring 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 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, CSGN is working 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.

For further information and to sign up to the Central Scotland Green Network Forum 2019 visit

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