Young planners investigate renewal and climate change aroundGlasgow

The recent young planners' conference in Glasgow gave the opportunity to pay a visit to a wind farm, admire the architecture of the art school and observe successful regeneration schemes, writes a team of delegates.

Young planners recently got to see how Glasgow is tackling climate change, sustainability and regeneration on a series of walks and visits as part of the network conference.

A visit to the Blacklaw wind farm demonstrated that large-scale renewable energy sources are key to dealing with climate change. Several staff from Scottish Power including a planner and an engineer accompanied delegates to the site.

The team answered questions on such diverse topics as ice build-up, bird strike, open access, connections to the grid and the longevity of technology. Planners stood at the base of one of the turbines, discussing the technology while it turned above them. It was surprisingly quiet with only the slightest swishing noise as it rotated.

Blacklaw is the largest onshore wind farm in the UK with 54 turbines. The site is economically viable and has a capacity of 124MW, saving 170,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide from being emitted each year. It is situated on the site of a former opencast mine whose owners went bankrupt and left the site unrestored. There were few objections to the proposals.

Scottish Power worked in close association with the community, local authorities, Edinburgh Airport, the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds and other stakeholders to ensure that the wind farm did not have negative impacts on bird life, the aircraft radar system, public rights of way or gas pipelines.

Another field trip took delegates to Glasgow School of Art, regarded as a fine example of design. The school is based in a remarkable building designed by graduate Charles Rennie Mackintosh. The visit showcased the school's boardroom, with its impressive fireplace, art studios and furniture collection. It culminated with the library, considered to be one of Mackintosh's most celebrated interiors.

Apart from the stunning visual impact and enduring nature of the design, the building is still fit for purpose around a century after it was built. The architectural creation shows Mackintosh's extraordinary attention to detail, right down to the distinctive motifs on the wall and floor tiles.

The importance of good design in social, economic and environmental terms was illustrated further when Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment head of communications Stella Bland presented recent examples of high-value engineering and design and build in a talk that examined changing corporate attitudes.

During their tour of the art school, young planners gained inspiration from the quality and enduring nature of the interiors. They benefited from an invaluable insight into the positive impact of quality design in creating a sustainable environment in which people want to live.

Delegates also enjoyed a walking tour of the city, which was led by an architect and provided the opportunity to learn from the quality of building design. The itinerary included a number of buildings with architecture that dated from various periods, such as Glasgow Central station, churches, hotels, offices, schools and residential developments. It allowed delegates to see some of the regeneration that is taking place in Glasgow and consider how the potential of the River Clyde frontage can be maximised.

The highlights on a separate tour of the city's East End included a visit to the eco-friendly John Wheatley College, which serves not only as a college but also as a local community centre, and an analysis of potential development sites around Celtic Park and the Cuningar Loop of the Clyde.

Although some of the areas visited are extremely deprived, the proposals discussed by Glasgow City Council principal development officer Tim Mitchell aim to help alleviate their economic, environmental and social problems.

It will be fascinating to return to the city in several years' time to observe how such proposals are helping the areas, especially now that Glasgow has succeeded with its bid to host the Commonwealth Games in 2014.

This article includes contributions from network steering group member and young planners' page editor Joanne Hooper, in addition to Alison Chapman, Maria Dunn, Graham Holmes, Emma Latimer and Joseph Ridgeon.

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