Sunday 31 March 2019

How Glasgow lost 350 people

Yes, it's official. Glasgow has shrunk.

As of 1 April 2019 Glasgow is just a little bit smaller, though you might not have noticed. About 350 people have left Glasgow and moved to North Lanarkshire, without actually moving at all. How did this come about? Well, I thought I'd turn what is sometimes viewed as a rather boring, technocratic process into a long blog post because I think it's a) interesting; b) a good example of how the lines we draw on maps can actually impact real lives; and c) evidence that people really do care about local government (or at least they do when it's not local enough). And by the way, this is not an April Fool's joke. It just so happens that these kinds of boundary reforms often come into force on 1 April. But, anyway, let's start with a gif and a couple of maps.

There's a slower version further down

Population: about 350. Area: about 95,000 sq m (23 acres)

Click here to go to the Google Maps version

What's going on here then? You can read a lot more about it on the Local Government Boundary Commission for Scotland (LGBCS) pages or you can also find more on the Scottish Government pages. Or, just keep reading this instead. By the way, the LGBCS is an advisory Non-Departmental Public Body, just in case you were asking.

Here's the short version. New houses were built on the North Lanarkshire-Glasgow border. About 150 addresses and 350 people in this new neighbourhood ended up being residents of the Glasgow City Council area rather than North Lanarkshire. Lots of people felt this wasn't ideal so they asked whether the boundary could be re-drawn, and now it has been. It had been done before, nearby. Glasgow City Council did not approve of the change. North Lanarkshire did not object, but they did have some serious concerns. The Education Service in North Lanarkshire did not think the changes were feasible, mainly on account of the estimate that it would require school places for 36 additional children. There was a full consultation, including a poster showing the proposed changes on a map. You can read everything about the boundary review here.

Take a look at the Street View version - new hooses

Here's the Google 3D view of the area

Here's a similar view showing the affected area only

But the longer version is actually pretty interesting in that it tells us quite a bit about how government works and how common sense can sometimes prevail. Not something we are perhaps accustomed to at the moment.

Here's the important statement on the review from the LGBCS pages:

  • "Scottish Ministers agreed to adopt the Commission’s recommendations, to amend the boundary between Glasgow City council area and North Lanarkshire council area at Cardowan. Order SSI 2018/308 was laid in the Scottish Parliament on 25 October 2018 and will come into force on 1 April 2019."

Previously, there had been a boundary review in this area in 2008. These changes, which also resulted in Glasgow losing some population and area to North Lanarkshire, came into effect on 1 April 2010. You can see how it looks from the extracts from the final report I have posted below.

Is North Lanarkshire eating Glasgow?

Overview map showing previous area transferred

The area previously transferred - it's to the west of the current area

So, putting it into a little bit of historical context, we can see that this has happened before. Then, in 2016, after requests from local residents, the Local Government Boundary Commission for Scotland looked at this new case. The Commission consulted with the Councils from 15 November 2016 until January 2017 and then there was a 12 week public consultation on the proposals from 15 June until 6 September 2017 (there were 187 responses). The Commission submitted their report to Scottish Government Ministers on 20 April 2018. It is Scottish Government Ministers who decide whether or not such recommendations are implemented, as they have been in this case.

The Report to Scottish Ministers provides a good summary of the case, including the main reasons cited by residents for wanting the boundary changed (the vast majority were in favour of the change). Okay, here's the gif at the top again as a reminder of the affected area (but slower this time).

I've slowed it down, just as a reminder of what happened

As you can see from all the images, this little bit of Cardowan was effectively a Glasgow City Council exclave, in the sense that it was cut off from the rest of Glasgow by road, with no direct access to the south and the rest of the city. One very important implication of this is travel to school, and this was raised by David Linden MP in his letter to the Commission. In his letter he explained that he had 'taken the liberty of calculating an estimated driving distance' from one of the affected postcodes to some local schools. You can see in the images below how the closest primary schools in Glasgow compare to one of the closest ones in North Lanarkshire.

Typical 8:15am schoolday trip

Another example to a different school

This is also about a 30 minute walk

David Linden MP also noted that there was also a "high level of dissatisfaction with maintenance of roads and pavements in the area" and that neighbours in North Lanarkshire did not suffer such issues.

I'm not going to look at all 130 responses that have been published online, but they make interesting reading. Not 'interesting' as in 'weird' or anything like that, just very interesting to see the things people are concerned about when the machinery of local government isn't quite seen to be in working order. This stuff matters to people and affects their lives. One respondent even noted that the person they bought their house from sold it because of this boundary issue. Others note that "the only service provided by Glasgow City Council is refuse collection" (on a Saturday evening). Overall, there is overwhelming support for the proposal from residents, and a good bit of strong feeling, with comments like this quite typical:

  • "Please grant this boundary change and allow us to be part of OUR community!"

  • "I'm sure many will agree that the boundary line does not make sense"

  • "Our children have to bypass 3 local primary schools to go to a Glasgow school, Children that are lucky enough to get placement request for local secondary schools are ineligible for the bus which is provided."

  • "We are an island surrounded by north Lanarkshire, for this reason alone the boundaries need to change as it did for a neighbouring estate."

But of course it is inevitable that not everyone agrees with the move. This respondent wanted to remain in Glasgow and made the following comment. Very much the exception though.

  • "I do not appreciate being forced to move to another LA area because others in the area had not done their homework properly before purchasing a home and expect others to change to suit them. If you dont want to live under the Glasgow LA dont buy a house in the area."

There were other people who disagreed but I couldn't find anyone else actually in the area who was opposed to the move. The main opposition (small as it was in percentage terms) seemed to come from existing residents nearby who were worried about local school capacity (an understandable concern).

Regardless of people's views, it's always interesting when looking at these kinds of issues from the perspective of local views. It makes you feel like people care, local democracy works and common sense can prevail. If only the same was true of national politics at the moment, eh?

Perhaps it is because I have been looking for proper distractions from Brexit or maybe it's because I just like this kind of thing but I also had a good read through the responses submitted by email, which if I am correct are, with one exception, all in favour of the proposal. I thought this one in particular was very powerful. I also particularly like the response that had "LOGIC & COMMON SENSE" as the first reason.

Several responses mentioned the issue of deprivation and of course there are real disparities between this area (Decile 9 on the SIMD, meaning it is is amongst the very least deprived in Scotland) and the area where the nearest Glasgow primary schools are (Decile 1 on the SIMD, among the most deprived in Scotland).

Also, it was nice to see that the proposals were accepted by Stepps & District Community Council.

To end this story, here are a couple of still images that I used to create the gif above, showing the old and new boundaries.

The old boundary - defunct as of 1 April 2019

The new boundary, as of 1 April 2019

Notes: I've estimated a population of 350 for this area. A figure of 292 electors is cited in one of the Cardowan Reports, and elsewhere a figure of 36 school-age children is mentioned. There are about 150 addresses in the area and with an average household size of 2.3 for the country as a whole it seems reasonable to assume a total population of about 350. Council Tax is lower in North Lanarkshire. A Band F property in North Lanarkshire in 2019/20 is billed at £1892.91, whereas in Glasgow it is £2794.81 (almost £902 more per year). The area is referred to as 'Cardowan' and 'Cardowan, Stepps' in various documents but also as 'the Dunlop Estate' by some residents and locals. Why do I care about any of this? Well, it's sort of related to what I am writing about at the moment in my day job. Plus I thought others might be interested. I'm not planning a blog post on the new English council that came into existence on 1 April 2019, but check it out if this post hasn't satisfied your thirst for local government wonkery.

Saturday 16 March 2019

Alternative Maps

This is a blog post about some maps of places that we don't often see on maps in Britain. I've had these stashed away for a while, since late 2017 when I wrote a piece called 'Alternative Maps and the Future of Brexit Britain', which you can see below. I've been thinking a lot more about this recently as part of my role in the UK2070 Commission, and also because I'm going to Redcar this week. But really this is just some personal musing about maps and in particular maps of the kinds of places that often seem to be left off the map, particularly in conversations at a national level. Scroll down for the maps. There's not too much more to it than that, but I thought looking at some of the less mapped places, with a bit of label re-sizing, was a good way for me to re-think my mental maps of the country, and that's really why I did them. Nothing profound.

You can probably read the text if you click to enlarge

I'm not asking for too much, am I?

I deliberately didn't add inset/locator maps to these

Too often we're blinded by the sun

Only peripheral if you're not paying attention

It's not that far away

A long way from London? 

Part of London?

Limited labels

I've gone crazy with the labels here

The Kingdom of Fife

I always think this part of the world is overlooked

Quite a big garden

So often overlooked

Definitely pretty central

Quite a bumpy landscape

A bit more label inversion here

Technically, this is not Shetland in a box

Greater Trowbridge?

Stafford and Cannock megaregion

There aren't a lot of maps of this area

There are a lot of people here

Like I said, this is just a few maps of places that we don't often see on maps. Or at least we maybe don't think of them as being nationally 'important' in the same we we do about major cities. In some ways that is understandable but I think it can't to any harm to change our mental maps and re-think how we think about the UK, where stuff is and where stuff should be.

Saturday 9 March 2019

A foto da favela de Paraisópolis

This is a blog post about a famous photograph by Brazilian photographer Tuca Vieira, but also about how emotion and imagery can often be much more powerful than 'data'. I'm just posting it here as a round up of various tweets on the topic I have posted previously so that they have a more permanent place on the web. But first, here's the photo. It was taken from a helicopter above São Paulo in 2004 as part of a newspaper piece on the 450th anniversary of the city. The favela of Paraisópolis is on the left, with the much more affluent area of Morumbi to the right.

Tuca Vieira's famous image

The photo has been used to illustrate many different things, but usually it serves as an exemplar for urban inequality. I have used it to highlight how in spatial analysis near things are not always necessarily more alike (i.e. Tobler's First Law of Geography doesn't always hold) as well as to talk about inequalities. I wanted to use it in a new GIS book so I got in touch with Tuca and he agreed that we could use it (for a very reasonable fee). He also sent some of the other images he took from the helicopter that day, from slightly different angles. Very powerful stuff.

There is a separate story here about how the image took on a life of its own, detached from the photographer, and how hardly anyone credited Vieira or even acknowledged how much effort taking an image like this is. There isn't too much about the image or Vieira's thoughts on it online but see this short interview for more. By the way, Paraisópolis means 'Paradise City'.

Anyway, once I discovered that the city was on street view, I spent quite a bit of time trying to find the exact spot, and I eventually found it. It's taken from a spot roughly above Avenida Giovanni Gronchi, which you can see on the ground in this Google street view image.

My original tweet on this from 2016

The little street to the left separates the areas

You can also read a bit more about it on Tuca Vieira's website, though more recently I have only been able to find this via the wayback machine. The page tells a story about an exhibition in London in 2007 where he was invited, but apparently not so much included. This is how Google translates what for me is the key statement in his piece:

"this photo may make me achieve what should be the great goal of an artist: to provoke a reflection on the world and not on the work and its author".

You can of course now see the scene in 3D in Google Earth, as shown, below. Nowhere near as interesting or as powerful as the original picture but still pretty useful.

Direct link to this 3D view on Google 

Anyway, what really prompted me to look again at this recently was the arrival of Google Earth Studio, a fantastic new tool for creating pretty realistic, smooth animations of 3D scenes around the world. I decided to make a fly-to and orbit type animation of this in Google Earth Studio. The full resolution version is on my web server but I've also embedded a version below (which may not look so crisp).

Notes: as I said at the start, I'm posting this here so that all the information is in one place and not spread between various tweets. This also makes it easier for me to find the information as I'm always forgetting where I put stuff. The image itself also prompts wider questions - e.g. are we only outraged/impacted by this kind of image because the contrast is so stark and so geographically close together? Is it the proximity of wealth and inequality that is so shocking, and if so, would more distance make it more 'acceptable'? Is it only so alarming because we can see it? People will have different answers to these questions, and many more, but it is clear that the image continues to have power and relevance. Type in terms like 'urban inequality' and look at the images and this will probably still be at the top, or very near. Finally, it looks like there is another, newer version of this image on a different Brazilian website. The original seems to be this iStock one by C_Fernandes from 2016.