East Kilbride News Column September 2018

LET’S talk about East Kilbride, shall we.

Scotland’s first new town was an exciting place to live when it was first built and for a good while after that. I moved here with my young and growing family more than 20 years ago. We were attracted by the greenery, the flowers – the beds were well-maintained - the playparks. There was a pub up the road and the town centre, though tired, had once been ground-breaking. Like all new towns, it was built with a green network of open spaces and paths. It had a good feel about it.

Since then the town centre has grown and we’ve seen out-of-town retail parks along with the internet hit traditional shopping patterns. I’ve written about the town centre before, so let me talk about the green spaces instead.

These are important but they have suffered from chronic under-investment as council budgets have been slashed by the SNP-run Scottish Government. It shows. Westwoodhill  Recreation Area is a prime example of this. It used to be well-used by local footballers. No one has played a serious game there for years as the council has pretty much given up on it.

That attitude, that areas like Westwoodhill, don’t matter as much any more, perhaps led to the bonkers plan to give up some of it to build a children’s nursery. The SNP-run council drew up the plan because its own government announced an increase in nursery hours – but without properly funding it. In fact, there is a £13million shortfall in South Lanarkshire alone.

I’m pleased to see that this hasty manoeuvre has been dropped because locals care about their green areas. So much so that I helped some of them to form a Friends of Westwoodhill  Recreation Area. They have an opportunity, working with the council, to enhance and develop their area and maybe turn it into the sort of park – why not aim for that – that people will want to visit.

The nursery expansion – a good thing – appears to have led to the closure of the Kiwi Playgroup after 40 years. There should have been no need for this and there are people in the council, who should be ashamed of themselves. The pub I mentioned earlier – the Stewartfield Farm – has been demolished and the council didn’t even try to prevent it. I have tabled an amendment to the Planning Bill which would make councils draw up lists of locally-important buildings that would be exempt from demolition. They’d have to ask people what they thought too. People care about where they live and we need authorities to feel the same.

Next weekend I am taking part in the annual Pedal for Scotland event, which is a 45-mile bike ride between Glasgow and Edinburgh. Last year some moron sprinkled tacks on part of the route causing chaos. I wasn’t caught up in that but I hope there is no repeat.