Glasgow Commonwealth Games - the Role of Planning and Design

05 November 2014

Overview from Scottish Government

Ian Gilzean (Chief Architect, Scottish Government) with contributions from Cathy Johnston (Glasgow City Council) and Alison Brown (Clyde Gateway).


This summer, the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games brought together thousands of elite athletes, and welcomed volunteers and excited spectators to join in an incredible festival of sport and culture. From the spectacular opening ceremony at Celtic Park to the closing event at Hampden Park, which was transformed from Scotland’s national football stadium to a vibrant athletics arena, the focus was on the sport. From the home nation’s perspective, the Scotland team’s best ever performance at the Commonwealth Games finishing fourth in the medals table (winning 19 golds and 53 medals in total) made the years of planning all seem worthwhile. The success of the Games has not however just been down to the sporting excellence on show – the eyes of the world were on Glasgow as the host city and it performed that role superbly to make the Glasgow Games the ‘best ever’. The city’s forward-thinking and creative approach to planning and delivering the games in partnership with the Scottish Government produced investment, regeneration and a legacy of sporting infrastructure (as well as the sporting and cultural memories). This was built-in as key component of the original bid document, resulting in the choice of Glasgow as the host city for the 2014 games in November 2007. In order to maximise the Games’ potential positive impact there was a focus on:-

  • regeneration of run-down areas;

  • redevelopment of empty and degraded sites;

  • new employment opportunities for local people;

  • improved leisure and recreational facilities;

  • projects that support lifestyle improvement and healthy living;

  • better public transport;

  • more attractive public open spaces; and

  • wide ranging environmental enhancements.

Glasgow built its bid upon the basis that it is a city with a reputation for both staging large events and a city with a great sporting history. A key aspect of Glasgow winning the 2014 Commonwealth Games bid was the fact that 70% of the venues already existed. This underpinned a focus on the proposed legacy and significantly reduced the environmental impact of the Games. Building upon the Olympics in 2012, new environmental and sustainability standards have been set for large scale events that are being developed by way of the Games, and this is reflected in the plans for creating an enduring legacy extending across Glasgow and Scotland, way beyond the event itself.

In addition, the reuse and adaptation of existing venues also removed the risk of new stadia becoming ‘white elephants’, while allowing the available funding to be focused on creating new facilities in areas of need; improving the local environment around the existing venues; and creating better transport routes between these locations - not only by road and rail but encouraging people to walk and cycle between venues. Virtually all of Glasgow’s venues were completed on time and on budget and were already in use by the public prior to the games commencing - they were in effect ‘loaned’ to the Commonwealth Games family.

The temporary conversion of Hampden Park into an athletics stadium (achieved by installing a raised track and field) is another example of creative thinking that has avoided the common problem of finding a sustainable new use for the main stadium following a major sporting event.


Strategic planning context

At a strategic level, the development of the Athletes’ Village forms a key component in the strategy to regenerate the Clyde Gateway and the East End of Glasgow. The Clyde Gateway in the south-east of the Glasgow Conurbation was defined as Scotland's top regeneration priority in Scottish Government National Planning Framework 2 (NPF2) in 2009 and facilities for the Games were designated as a national development. Building upon this, the continuing importance of the long term commitment to regeneration and building a legacy in the area was underlined in the South Dalmarnock Integrated Urban Infrastructure Framework (2010), NPF3 (2014), and incorporated within City Plan 3.   The Metropolitan Growth Corridor in both Glasgow and Clyde Valley Strategic Development Plan and City Plan 2 along with the development of “Changing Places: Changing Lives”, the East End Local Development Strategy, ensured that the thinking that delivered the Games will be continued through the regeneration frameworks for the city. The emerging City Development Plan will drive this agenda forward and ensure that the legacy of the Games is fundamental to the future development of the city.


Clyde Gateway

The east side of the city together with adjoining parts of South Lanarkshire contain some of Scotland’s poorest communities and large concentrations of vacant and derelict land close to areas which have experienced strong economic growth. Established in 2007, Clyde Gateway Urban Regeneration Company is tasked with delivering transformational physical, social and economic change across the area over a 20 year period.

The boundaries of the URC extend to 840 hectares and include the communities of Bridgeton, Dalmarnock, Rutherglen and Shawfield.

The Clyde Gateway area has already seen £1 billion of investment in transport infrastructure, site assembly and remediation, speculative office and industrial development, public realm, community facilities and programmes to develop community capacity and employability skills.


Clyde Gateway is also targeted with delivering:-

  • 350 ha. derelict & contaminated land remediated;

  • 400,000 sqm. business floorspace;

  • 10,000 residential units; and

  • 21,000 jobs created.

Dalmarnock accommodates a 5,000-seat National Indoor Sports ‘Emirates’ Arena, the 1,500-seat Sir Chris Hoy Velodrome, and other facilities for the 2014 Commonwealth Games. The overall management of this programme of investment is under the auspices of the Clyde Gateway Urban Regeneration Company (URC), one of a number of URCs established by Scottish Government to act as agents of change in areas prioritised for large scale regeneration activity.



The Commonwealth Games has provided a unique opportunity for the people of Glasgow and Scotland in terms of a green legacy of facilities and infrastructure. More widely in Scotland, Glasgow’s experience can be used as an exemplar for replication in other towns and cities - by focusing on what they have in place already and working around that. This ‘assets’-based approach has become a hallmark of regeneration and community empowerment in Scottish Government policy. Glasgow’s Greener legacy projects and the National Legacy have created opportunities for community participation and for dealing with some of the barriers to this. One of the key legacy projects for Dalmarnock has been the development of a new community hub, which is under construction now and due for completion in 2015. The hub is a great example of the important role that strong community organisations can have in delivering regeneration initiatives, bringing about real change in communities.  Plans for the hub include, a new all-purpose community hall, a child care nursery, GP surgery, pharmacy, training and educational facilities, and an all-important community café!

The venues have also cemented Scotland’s place on the map as a major Global Events Destination. The SSE Hydro alone, in the first 6 months of this year, was the 3rd busiest live entertainment venue in the world, (based on Pollstar’s “Top 100 Worldwide Arena Venues” rankings.) Many of the venues have already hosted international sporting events and competitions prior to the Games, and will continue to do so in the future.

World class sporting facilities in the shape of the Emirates Arena and Sir Chris Hoy Velodrome are spearheading an increase in local sport participation.


Key components of the 2014 development strategy

Rather than locate all of the investment in one key area of the city at the outset, three development ‘hubs’ were established for the delivery of the games infrastructure:– the East End cluster in the Clyde Gateway regeneration area; a South Side cluster including the redevelopment of Hampden Park as the main Athletics stadium; and the Clyde Waterfront Regeneration Area, which includes the new 12,000 seat SECC Arena. This has ensured that different parts of city have benefited from Games investment and better connectivity from improved transport infrastructure, for example a new rail station at Dalmarnock was completed adjacent to the Athletes’ Village and the completion of the M74.


The Athletes’ Village - 700 homes in 700 days

The Athletes’ Village, one of the key new-build developments within the range of projects which were planned for the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow in 2014, is seen as an exemplar for future development across Scotland. It is an excellent example of what can be achieved when vision, planning, and design come together. The development was taken forward by a consortium ‘City Legacy’ comprising Cruden Homes, CCG, Malcolm Group, Mactaggart & Mickel and Glasgow City Council

The site is designed to align with the Scottish Government’s ‘Designing Streets’ policy. It incorporates Sustainable Urban Drainage principles and uses these to enhance on-site biodiversity, which is then extended by the inclusion of a dedicated link bridge connection to the newly accessible greenspace amenity of Cuningar Loop. Cuningar Loop was previously a contaminated, derelict site, and is now being transformed to create a wildlife haven on the doorstep of the new Dalmarncock residents. Cuningar Loop is being delivered by the Forestry Commission Scotland in conjunction with Clyde Gateway, Robertson Construction, Glasgow City Council and South Lanarkshire Council.




















The Athletes’ Village provides a model which offers an alternative to housing estate patterns and which aims to raise the bar for future residential development in the city.’

The housing is a mix of social and private properties and a care home - intermingled so that occupancy types are indistinguishable - and the development has a dedicated site-wide state-of-the-art Energy Centre which provides power, heating and hot water to all of the properties, meaning much lower fuel bills for new tenants and homeowners. Both of these are objectives that are often built into development briefs only to become early casualties of the construction process.

The development is imaginatively designed visually, and is constructed to the latest building, sustainability and energy efficiency standards, creating warm, energy efficient and cost effective homes with a minimum of 60% reduction in carbon emissions over current building standards.

Adding value – the role of planners

Planners had a pivotal role in the timeous delivery of the project and in ensuring an exemplar residential development built to the highest possible design. Planners instigated and engaged in extensive pre-application discussions over an 18-month period with City Legacy (applicant and developer) and Turley Associates (agent), and relevant consultation bodies, which lead to the preparation and submission of a detailed masterplan for the Athletes’ Village. Agreement was reached on the fundamental design principles, put forward by planners at the outset, in order to secure a quality development with a sense of place, connectivity, and sustainability. In addition, planners were able to formulate suitable conditions to deal with difficult and outstanding land use issues, for instance levels, surveys, and drainage design, to the satisfaction of the developer and statutory consultees. The engagement process also included a 6-day community consultation event and numerous presentations to local groups. Because of the pre-engagement exercise, involving applicant, agent, community and planning authority, the planning application for the Village was determined within 4-months. To date, the Athletes’ Village has won the Scottish Property Awards for City Regeneration Project of the Year and is short-listed for the Scottish Awards for Quality in Planning.




















The masterplan is divided into character zones, each of which has a different look and feel differentiated by factors such as street forms, the spacing between buildings, the pedestrian experience and materials.



The Commonwealth Games were a huge success, and planning played a key role in developing the strategy, delivering on the ground and building in a lasting legacy for the city of Glasgow and people and communities around Scotland. A genuine and sustainable legacy in sporting participation, physical regeneration, and improvements in the environment has been successfully delivered.

Connecting Planning and Planners across the Commonwealth

CAP gratefully acknowledges the support of our members and the Commonwealth Foundation.

Commonwealth Association of Planners (known as CAP) is a Scottish Charity, SC034482, regulated by the Scottish Charity Regulator (OSCR)