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March 21, 2012

There’s money in muck

It can’t be easy staying positive when your community has been dubbed Glasgow’s worst modern day slum.  Govanhill has faced a double environmental whammy – an epidemic of fly-tipping combined with a large number of flats left to rot by rogue landlords. Undaunted, the local housing association sees only opportunities where others see urban blight – an opportunity to create jobs and training on the way to a community clean-up.


Catriona Stewart, Evening Times

AN area dubbed Glasgow’s worst modern day slum is being tackled with a £1.25million scheme to renovate tenement backcourts.

Areas in Govanhill, in the South Side, have been blighted by fly tipping and flats have been left to rot by rogue landlords.

But a new initiative is working to revamp the community’s backcourts – and create 60 jobs and training opportunities for local people.

The Backcourts Improvement And Employability Initiative will see £1.25m spent improving and upgrading the backcourts of four tenemental blocks in the south-west of the district.

Janice McEwan, chairwoman of Govanhill Housing Association, which is leading the initiative, welcomed the scheme – but said more money would be needed to maintain the area.

We need to take better care of our local environment. I hope this encourages us to use our back gardens much more I am glad I am going to be working on something that is going to be good for Govanhill. It is my area and I am proud to live here 

She said: “We were very pleased when the Scottish Government and Glasgow City Council recognised the particular problems we have in Govanhill and are delighted work is under way.

“We would not have got here if it was not for the community in Govanhill coming together and pushing their case. 

“The initiative is an important start, but we believe we need more investment and more support as part of a bigger strategy to improve Govanhill’s sub-standard housing and make sure it is maintained properly in the future.” 

Work is being carried out with support from Govanhill Community Development Trust, local environmental training enterprise Great Gardens, Glasgow’s Regeneration Agency and Oxfam. 

And the scheme has been funded by £1m from the Scottish Government, which was given after MSPs toured the area and saw the poor repair of the backcourts, while Glasgow City Council also put up £250,000.

Bosses from Govanhill Housing Association canvassed residents to find out exactly what they wanted their backcourt areas to look like – and each green space has been designed for people living in that block.

Some will have barbeque areas, some flowerbeds or landscaping, allotment areas for growing vegetables and patios. 

They will also have new bin stores, with enough space for wheelie bins and recycling facilities. 

Rowan Smith, from Langside Road, said: “Just now we have concrete slabs and a washing line nobody uses – it is not a very welcoming space. 

“We are really looking forward to getting some greenery. When the work is finished we hope we will have a nice sociable area and we will all look after it properly. 

“The backcourts initiative is a great boost for our area and should help make Govanhill a better place to live. 

“The recent building repairs and regeneration of open spaces are already making a real difference.

“We hope we can all kick on from this and continue to improve our community.”

Christan Hunter, who also lives in Langside Road, added: “Like many home owners here I have spent a large amount of money in building improvements, so I am really pleased support is being offered to improve our backcourts. 

“We all need to take better care of our local environment, and I hope this project will encourage us all to use and appreciate our back gardens much more.”

As part of the project, 60 local people will get paid for training, learning new skills in landscaping, gardening and grounds maintenance. 

Trainee Jennifer O’Brien, a mother-of-one, said: “I have enjoyed learning skills and am looking forward to putting them into practice. 

“I am hoping they will help me get a job at the end of the training. 

“I am glad I am going to be working on something that is going to be good for Govanhill. It is my area and I am proud to live here. 

“It is worthwhile being part of something that is helping make it a better place for people to live.” 

Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, who is also the area’s MSP, toured Govanhill to see the backcourts that will be improved.

She said: “It is great to see the work finally starting and local people getting the opportunity to be involved in the design of their backcourts.

“It is especially pleasing that young unemployed people are getting the chance to learn new skills and improve their employment prospects as part of this initiative”