Select Committee on Scottish Affairs Minutes of Evidence


Examination of Witnesses (Questions 40 - 55)

MONDAY 3 DECEMBER 2001

MR DANIEL HENDERSON, MR STEVE INCH, MR GEORGE THOM, MS SHIRLEY LINTON, MR STEPHEN DUNLOP, DR JOHN C SHELDON AND MR GERRY BAKER

Mr Lyons

  40. All of us have been impressed by the very high level of cooperation between the councils, yourselves and British Waterways Scotland. If there is cooperation and success there must be tension with all of that working. What are the tensions between all of you?
  (Mr Thom) I certainly think one of the tensions was the pace of the programme, it was quite challenging, actually, to manage the planning permission and the road traffic issues, they are in the past actually, that was challenging at the time. We set up a special group that fast tracked the programme so there was an adequate period of time to push through the changes and the decision making, that was quite challenging. I must admit it was all done in a reasonable spirit.

Mr Sarwar

  41. I am sure all of us are very encouraged to see the level of cooperation from the councils with British Waterways Scotland and I am sure this project will be a successful project. Particularly I think Mr Campbell will be very happy that he has pulled the support from Edinburgh Council and Glasgow City Council, that will definitely be a success. My question is to West Dunbartonshire Council, I believe that West Dunbartonshire Council wish to contribute in the form of land transfer to British Waterways Scotland and I believe negotiations are taking place. Have you made the decision yet or are you still in negotiation?
  (Mr Henderson) The Council have made a decision, it is not just a matter of the land. The Chip Boat generates a very significant revenue income, so there is a value in that, it is not just a straightforward land transfer.

  42. Has the deal been completed? Why is it taking so long?
  (Mr Henderson) The preceding question from Mr Lyons was perhaps an interesting one, I think it is fair to say that there have been difficult times over the course of the last year, or so, when the Millennium Link work has been proceeding and, perhaps, British Waterways and ourselves have not been able to see eye to eye on a number of occasions. However, I am fairly confident we will be able to get on and conclude the matter now.

Chairman

  43. Is there a problem with the Chip Boat?
  (Mr Henderson) There is a difference in valuations basically between what our valuation of the asset was and what British Waterways value of the asset was.

  44. How far along the line of coming to a settlement are you?
  (Mr Henderson) Very far along the line, we have come much closer to British Waterways way of thinking, now that project is about finished.

Mr Robertson

  45. A few of you have mentioned about the job creation and regeneration and I would like to ask a question on that, have you actually received the anticipated regeneration and the jobs? Have you looked at the fact that you might only be moving jobs from one area to another? Clydebank itself, West Dunbartonshire, did suffer with the retail park, and obviously Braehead. One of my fears is, and my colleagues have the same fears is all we are doing is moving things in regeneration back along the canal and we move them, perhaps, from other areas and in effect we do not create jobs. Have you looked at that?
  (Mr Henderson) If I can briefly respond to that. Mark Lazarowicz's point was a very good point, it is not an exact science, the number of jobs we are going to come up with here, some are loosely associated to the canal, others will be directly attributable to work along the canal. There is a risk there may be a bit of a movement of jobs from one source to another. There are, undoubtedly areas where new jobs will be provided. I think the point that was made about having clear criteria and having some way of determining which are newly created jobs is important. There will definitely be new jobs created in relation to Bowling, which is at the western end of the canal, there will be new developments in Bowling because the canal has been reopened. There is no doubt there will be new jobs created, but it will be a matter of trying to be as accurate as we possibly can be in identifying precisely what we have managed to achieve.

  46. Can I ask, does that mean as councils, when you are doing your part of your areas development, you are talking to Glasgow City Council and Glasgow City Council are talking to East Dunbartonshire and working their way up to Edinburgh Council?
  (Mr Inch) There are two question, the first question was, has the canal delivered regeneration benefits? The answer is no and we would not expect it to because I think it is in the nature of these projects you do the work and then the benefits flow, the benefits only flow if you take advantage of the opportunity and work it. As I said in my introductory comment, we produced a canal strategy, which is working its way through the council system at the moment, and that identifies opportunities. Those opportunities are in our Departmental Service Plan, which requires us to report back to the council once a year, so we will have that monitoring evaluation mechanism built in. I also mentioned, I think, in my preamble that we are in negotiations with a developer who wants to develop a difficult site in New Street in Glasgow. The developers and companies in Glasgow north want to stay in Glasgow north, so it not only moving the chips that are in the boat, it is actually building for growth that wants to come through and the stay in the area.
  (Mr Thom) I think displacement is an issue. The canal does offer a unique opportunity. Part of our strategy is to link business creation in with the whole project, like the Kirkintilloch Initiative. We are looking at generating new business that takes advantage of the new opportunities on the canal. If you can do that you cannot talk about displacement, you are generating new activities which adds to the whole cycle.

Mr Lazarowicz

  47. Taking up the points which are being developed in this discussion, I notice in the introduction to the local authorities paper Mr Thom points out that public agencies cannot create jobs unless they are required. I wonder if it is possible to give some indication of how successful to date indications are of success to date, or in the pipeline, of stimulating private sector activity to do with the actual unique feature of the canal itself? I do not mean so much the associated regeneration development projects which happen to be alongside the canal such as shopping centres which make use of an attractive location, but commercial activities relating to the canal itself in terms of boats, that kind of area. How much is happening there? Are we actually creating private sector jobs there?
  (Mr Thom) I think this whole project is on slow burn and I think some of the issues that were raised by British Waterways appear in that. Getting a hire firm on to the canal that was generating activity on the canal would be a significant achievement itself, it is part of the package of proposals. Those kind of larger projects that will come from the development will be hard to pull off, but they are being worked on. The other issues about private sector investment, you have to put a platform down and attract in the private sector. The only way they will come in is if they see a viable opportunity. As a selling job they need that done there. A very good example is we had what was called a Canal and Coppers day. The canal is next to the new police station and there was an event in August and it was really difficult to get local traders to acknowledge this Sunday in August and keep their shops open. There is a bit of work, we have to do that, we are doing that, to educate, in the best possible sense, the private sector about the opportunities that are round.

Mr Sarwar

  48. Strathclyde European Partnership said that one of the conditions attached to the provision of European money was that British Waterways should work with development companies to maximise the training and employment opportunities for residents of SIP areas adjacent to the canal. However, Scottish Enterprise noted that "the number of trainee places originally forecast is unlikely to be achieved due to the fact that much of the work being undertaken was skilled with little opportunity to engage trainees." Are any of the other local authorities involved in the Millennium Link helping to develop training projects along the lines of the Glasgow model? Have the training opportunities linked to the development of the canal lived up to expectations?
  (Mr Inch) I repeat there are currently training programmes being developed which will last for two years in Glasgow, which will focus on the recruitment of long term unemployed residents on SIPS, mainly in Glasgow north and I also hope Drumchapel, that will be 60 individuals each year.
  (Mr Henderson) The West Dunbartonshire Social and Inclusion Partnership has worked with a local group known as Greenlight, who are based in Alexandria, and they have provided a considerable number of training opportunities. However, this is to date not related to the canal project, it is hoped that we will be able to extend their activities over the course of the coming years. We have to appreciate that this is only the first few months that the Millennium Link Forth and Clyde canal has been open. I am confident that there will be a number of opportunities for more training projects in the coming years.
  (Mr Baker) I think there is an expectation that the local community will get something out of the canal, they will have ownership of it and that will improve their employment prospects. Certainly I think one of the strengths of this type of project is that we can learn there are good projects, even in Glasgow. We can take forward their model, build on it, produce best practice. There are a range of projects that we are currently looking at. There is an expectation there, both ourselves and other agencies we have to develop a training programme and access to employment, not just in the area itself but access to employment where employment is created. The strength of this project is that it will help areas like Wester Hailes to look outward, to look at the potential of the canal and Link to actually create employment opportunities and development opportunities. Certainly we would want to build on the best practice of the local authorities.
  (Mr Thom) We do not have a SIPs area. We were certainly involved in developing a demonstration project with young people to try and see a barge building project brought back on to the canal, that is in the next development phase, which will obviously employ local young people in that kind of project.

Mr Robertson

  49. As somebody who has two SIPs in his constituency that is something which is very important to me, it is good to see Glasgow leading the way as always. My question is obviously to Glasgow City Council in that respect, did the north Glasgow pilot learn a bit from it, the canal training was part of it, and the employment project itself? Can you see how it is all linked now? How we can progress it between canal training employment projects and the Millennium Link?
  (Mr Inch) I think there is an opportunity to build on each of those things and that should make the whole the better than the sum of the parts. The Millennium Link project is finished in its current form and there are huge opportunities for additional work to do that. When you finally get a copy of this as an elected member you will see how we have split the canal up and identified all of the opportunities all of the way in. Each of those stretches identify areas where we think there is scope for environmental improvement, for stopping off points to be built. There is a huge flow of work going to come out of this. All of that, I think, is quite relevant for establishment of the training initiative. What we have done is the tip of what could be the iceberg.

  50. You have gained a lot of knowledge from this?
  (Mr Inch) Yes.

  51. In the end are you going to use it to create jobs in other areas?
  (Mr Inch) Yes. I think it is a launching point to do some innovative and imaginative forms of training.

Mr Joyce

  52. I have a question for Mr Dunlop, thinking of development round the Wheel itself, could you just say how you would imagine this is a medium to long term development proceeding in such a way that it maintains some benefit for the people in the adjacent areas and also how would Falkirk hang on to some of the 250,000 visitors that are currently projected to visit the wheel as opposed to them visiting somewhere else?
  (Mr Dunlop) Yes. You may or may not know that very recently agreed through the council are development framework for not just the Wheel site but all of the way, including Camelon right down to the Rose Bank site, and that has a 10 to 15 year plan which is comprehensive in its nature and covers a vast range of developments, including all of the bits that you described as ragged. There is something in it for everyone here in terms of the development plan. It is very much based on how people are included within the development and how we maximise the use of derelict sites, so in the whole area standards are raised substantially. I think the second point, how do we make sure that whatever number of tourists come to the site, we maximise those through the other experiences we have on offer is key to this. Certainly the Park and Ride gives us an opportunity, we will have our hands on the visitors and we can offer them a journey through the Falkirk area and packages of services and opportunities that will , as you say, make sure they go through our facilities and our services and our town centres rather pitching up and going straight away. I would build on a point that John Robertson mentioned, the issue of, are we merely displacing jobs, because I think certainly for Falkirk and the Millennium Link for us it is key to repositioning not just Falkirk in the central belt, because it adds a massive new development there. Let us not forget the tourist industry is straining at the moment. There are massive declines in the number of visitors that we have and therefore there will be a number of people in jobs in the tourist area at the moment whose jobs will be under pressure over the next number of years and therefore sustaining jobs and repositioning jobs in that difficult environment is not necessarily a bad thing. Certainly we see the Millennium Link not just behaving and acting on its own but certainly fitting into a broader central belt theme and maximising that and making sure when people come to visit us we have a range of projects that will make sure they stay, and importantly come back.

  Mr Carmichael: Quite a few of the local authorities submissions make reference to a request which came for an additional £1.8 million following a shortfall in European funding. The one I have in front of me is West Dunbartonshire, but there are other references to it. Simply, and as briefly as you can, can you tell me how that came to be?

Mr Lazarowicz

  53. One of the features of this report from the different authorities is it is quite useful to see the approaches taken by different authorities to compare and contrast. In that context I was interested that the section from West Lothian is perhaps a little embryonic compared with some of the other local authority contributions, and I put the point to Dr Sheldon. I wonder if that particular authority has yet made plans to take full potential from the canal? I wonder if more potential could be realised in that area? I would appreciate a comment on that now or in due course?
  (Mr Thom) Can I make comment on the first one, the simple answer is I do not know why there was a shortfall. The £1.8 million that was necessary was part of British Waterways programme, as I understand it. Correct me if I have the wrong end of stick here, we responded to that. It is difficult to answer that question specifically.
  (Mr Henderson) They did not get as much grant from Europe as they expected to get. They did not get as much money from Europe as they anticipated.

Mr Carmichael

  54. From the point of local authorities?
  (Mr Henderson) It was not just the local authorities, it was everybody.

Chairman

  55. Everybody picked up part of the tab?
  (Ms Linton) Just to clarify, there was a shortfall in the European Funding. Scottish Enterprise and the local authorities made that up in a proportion we agreed amongst ourselves.
  (Dr Sheldon) It does look rather thin, half a page compared with some of the others, but Broxburn does not have the same attractions as Falkirk and so we have to ensure that we attract these visitors and get them to West Lothian venues.

  Chairman: Thank you very much, ladies and gentleman, for your cooperation and assistance today, which will be greatly useful to us.





 
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