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Great Western Road, Glasgow: main street or motorway?

Great Western Road, Glasgow: main street or motorway?

As a recently hired pair of hands at the Percy Johnson-Marshall consultancy practice in Edinburgh, Tim Pharoah was asked in 1969 to investigate the environmental consequences of a proposal to turn Great Western Road, Glasgow, into a so-called "expressway". This would entail widening the road to a dual-carriageway, closing off most local access roads, and building underpasses and bridges for pedestrians. 

The scheme was part of a much wider plan for the creation of a network of motorway and near-motorway standard highways including a ring road around the city centre and radial links from the suburbs.

A local campaign group against the Great Western Road proposal had already emerged by 1966, with the adverse impact on the historic fabric of surrounding buildings and open spaces being the main issue of concern. Percy Johnson Marshall, Professor of Urban and Regional Planning at Edinburgh University was asked by Glasgow City Highways Department to provide an assessment of the impact of the road proposal, presumably to provide a rebuttal of the objectors' case.

By employing me to do the legwork, they inadvertently got evidence that probably was of more assistance to the objectors than it was to the proponents of the road scheme.

Thankfully, after much fighting and argument, the scheme was finally dropped in the mid 1970s. Like so many other major urban roadbuilding schemes of that era, they were abandoned in the mid 1970s primarily because of financial concerns and uncertainties cause by the the 1974 oil crisis. The realisation that major urban roadbuilding causes more problems than it solves came somewhat later.

There are no longer any records of the detailed work undertaken for Great Western Road (other than my report, see right), but it involved a classification of architectural styles and streetscape, the uses to which buildings adjacent to the road were put, and an assessment of pedestrian desire lines across the road. The impact on bus services and bus stops in particular was also considered. As would be very obvious to anyone looking at Great Western Road today, its conversion to a limited-access dual carriageway would have been a catastrophe for the community, for the built heritage, and for the enormously popular Kelvingrove Park, Art Gallery and Museum.

Some context on the Glasgow Highway Plan can be found here.

A brief history of the Great Western Road can be found here.

Tim Pharoah's report on Great Western Road is in pdf format to the right.

LocationGlasgow Scotland
Client(s)Percy Johnson-Marshall & Associates, for Glasgow City Council
Team(s)Tim Pharoah


Mororway, expressway, dual-carriageway, road widening, urban road building, Great Western Road, Glasgow, environmental impact, impact assessment, pedestrian desire line