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Meet the team trying to build a radical skatepark under the M74

Meet the team trying to build a radical skatepark under the M74

Ambitious plans to turn a disused part of the M74 into a radical urban skatepark have been unveiled.

And we got the first chat with the man who has dreamt up the brilliant scheme to transform the dank underside of the busy motorway.

With plans to merge the gritty urban sports of skateboarding, BMX and free-running with the city's acclaimed artistic side, it seems that two Glasgow passions could be about to merge.

And the man behind it all is 44-year-old photographer and skateboard lover Neil Davidson.

"Skateboarders in Glasgow have always had their eye on empty spaces under motorways," explains Neil, Chairman of Glasgow Urban Sports.

"The M8 has always had sheltered places under it and skateboarders have always looked at them and thought 'what if, what if...'

"And then the M74 was built and it had these massive spaces. I knew we could do something with them."

  (Plaza overview)
via STV via STV

After suffering through another rained off skateboarding session in the city, dreich Glasgow weather victim Neil battered off an email with his idea to the local council.

"I came home and Googled Glasgow councillors who had something to do with sport," recalls Neil. "Six months later that email had gone all the way round to Sport Scotland and the ball was rolling."

Working with a team of friends and fellow skateboarders and artists, Neil pitched the idea of a skatepark that would combine sculpture and sport in an innovative way.

"We're all in our 40s of 50s, which is unusual; most skateparks originate from younger guys," explains Neil.

  (Park overview)
via STV via STV

But age means nothing where passion is concerned, and Neil and his team have seen their idea thrive, with even Transport Scotland coming on board to hear their plans.

Neil's research into similar skateparks in America has helped them combine ideas for plans which include backyard swimming pool bowls, 'china town' banks, and urban plaza design, with seating areas and landscaping for members of the local and general public to enjoy.

"It has been achieved in Belfast and I believe in Manchester, though ours is certainly going to be the biggest and the best," said Neil. "The main thing we're working towards now is panning permission from the council and then securing funding."

GUS / M74 Urban Sports Sculpture Park from Glasgow Urban Sports on Vimeo.

The park will utilise the M74 flyover, which will shelter over 50% of the space beneath, ensuring its users are not discouraged by changeable weather conditions.

And if plans go ahead, it will also bring more footfall to an area whose nearby subway station is, according to Neil, "allegedly the quietest one on the line".

Situated only a ten minute walk from the West Street subway station, the proposed park would be easy to reach by anyone in central Glasgow.

"When the M74 was built there wasn't really any proposals to do something under the flyover space, which is probably why Transport Scotland have been so positive," adds Neil.

  (M74 Bowl)
via STV via STV

For a project that first started two and half years ago, Neil and his team are now nearing a hopeful point where funding and planning permission could make their dream happen.

"Hopefully we can become part of the Commonwealth Games legacy with funding," said Neil.

"You have to understand, even skateboarders in Edinburgh have more dry days than us," Neil adds wistfully.

"This park would be the previously unanswered dream of Glasgow skateboarders."

If you would like to learn about the plans of Neil and the team then pop along to the public presentation on Friday July 18, from 1pm to 3pm at The Lighthouse.

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