Saturday, 16 July 2011

Keep Greenock Sugar Sheds A Community Space

On Wednesday morning, following the Tall Ships weekend, we put a facebook page up suggesting that we should Keep Greenock Sugar Sheds A Community Space. Since then, thousands of people have liked the page, and hundreds have signed the online petition.

For many years we have expressed our views on how the Sugar Sheds could be used more creatively, even before the arrival of the current regeneration initiative.

Since Wednesday, a group of around half a dozen new volunteers have been involved in keeping the page up to date, collecting petition signatures, running a twitter account and generally attempting to gather support.

We have been totally delighted with the positive response and also the optimism of the people who have been commenting.

Sometimes in Inverclyde, we are too ready to be told what can't be done. What's been so great about this, is that people have not felt so confined or restrained, as a result we've seen some genuinely creative thinking.

We feel it would be wise to try and harness some of that thinking for the good of the community.

The Sugar Sheds currently have planning permission to be developed into offices, a cafe bar and restaurant. This is not the same as community space. "Public access" does not mean community space.

Yes, these suggestions offer the traditional opportunities for investment and employment, something we also want to see for our community, but there are other ways. Have a look here at Maryhill Burgh Trust, or here at Penicuik House. There are other ways to regenerate. What we are asking is that this be seriously explored and that our community have the opportunity to be involved in that discussion.

Let's be clear, Inverclyde Council no longer own this space, it is owned by James Watt Dock Limited Liability Partnership, a partnership between Riverside Inverclyde and Peel Holdings. However, some of our local councillors, MPs and MSPs have positions on the boards of these organisations. Currently they are our best method of representation to this company, and some have already agreed to meet with us or put our views forward including Duncan McNeil MSP and Stuart McMillan MSP.

In the last two days we have had funders, promoters, businesses, artists and performers all come to us to offer support and suggestions. The key now is to build on that momentum, which I am sure our local Urban Regeneration Company would want to do. Equally, James Watt Dock LLP clearly places community at the heart of the development.

We have asked to meet with them to see if we can take forward discussions on more formal community involvement in the further development of the building. With the community on board and actively involved as partners, a whole range of funding and development opportunities can be opened up which the URC would not generally be able to access.

We are also exploring the possibility of a public meeting at an appropriate venue.

We've heard a few folk criticise the campaign for "raising expectations", in Inverclyde, that is precisely what we need to be doing.

In the short term, here's what we're suggesting

- Keep signing and sharing the petition

- Express your support for the campaign, in your own words to your locally elected representative

- Lets keep the pressure on to get back into the Sheds to run some more community events. August 6th is the 130th Anniversary of the James Watt Dock, September 10th and 11th are Doors open Days.

In the meantime, if you have a particular expertise you feel may help the group, you can contact us on


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