Throwing Down the Gauntlet – Are Govan Councillors With Us or Against Us?

Govan Graving Docks
A briefing paper

The A-listed Govan Graving Docks – a hugely important industrial heritage site –  have been derelict and deteriorating for almost 30 years. There are tripping hazards on the site, broken glass and deep open shafts some hidden by weeds. Engineers have advised us there will be contaminated soil on the site. There are gaps in the fence through which children and teenagers can easily get access – putting themselves at great risk – particularly if they are there to consume alcohol as is often the case.

In that time councillors in the area have done nothing whatsoever to address the state of the docks, the hazard it presents or seek any remedy. It is only since our restoration campaign and especially since the formation of Clyde Docks Preservation Initiative (CDPI) that councillors (and one councillor in particular) have taken a very close interest. It is very clear that certain individuals are intent on preventing CDPI from having any kind of involvement with the future of Govan graving docks and we believe they have been bad-mouthing us to several parties. It is becoming clear that a number of organisations in Govan have put up a wall and appear reluctant to speak to The Clyde Docks Preservation Initiative about Govan Graving Docks.

While other councillors have reserved judgement, kept their distance or dealt with us very constructively and cordially – one particular councillor, who has been openly very hostile towards CDPI, even seems to be colluding with the current owners to try and shut us out. While at the same time trying to reframe CDPI as wealthy developers trying to take the docks away from the people of Govan. [You’ve caught us! We’re planning to ship them brick-by-brick to North America!]

We were told by a councillor at a focus group last year not to set up an organisation (i.e. CDPI) without first consulting with the community. Any form of consultation requires a vehicle to do it. This seems very much like an indirect way for this councillor to tell us not to do anything without their express permission. Do we need permission from an individual councillor to do anything?

Clearly we have stamped on one or two toes and a certain individual sees opportunity to make political hay to get votes.

We have been told by a councillor that the present owners of the graving docks will take things forward with the site and that what the developers do will be decided by “the people of Govan” and not “a group of individuals who have just set up an organisation and a website”.

The reality is that whatever the owners do will be decided by themselves alone and their level of investment capital – provided they obtain planning consent. The “people of Govan” will have no veto over this. People will be able to make representations for or against planning applications but as experience has often shown (e.g. with the North Kelvin Meadow decision just this week – which is proposed for development by the same group that owns the graving docks) this has minimal influence over the planning process.

Would the councillor rather see Govan Graving Docks eventually looking like Canary Wharf than CDPI have any involvement in the future of the site? We’re not sure we know the answer to that.

It is beyond belief that such behaviour can go on in the First Minister’s constituency.


An Open Letter to The Scottish Government and Glasgow Election Candidates

The Future of Govan Graving Docks

Dear Election Candidates

In a matter of weeks Scotland will go to the polls to elect MSPs for a new parliamentary term. Some of you may be elected / re-elected and some of you may not.

Our current Scottish Government has expressed in the past a commitment to re-industrialising Scotland – an ambitious goal that will depend primarily on the right infrastructure being in place.

You may or may not be aware of the conversation that has started to build around the derelict Govan Graving Docks in Glasgow and the campaign for their restoration. What The Clyde Docks Preservation Initiative is starting to find through its conversations is a groundswell of traction building behind the idea of a working commercial dry dock forming part of a maritime heritage centre / heritage park at Govan Graving Docks.

In the context of reindustrialising Scotland I feel it is very important we preserve and protect the infrastructure that could form the basis of any future maritime industry strategy on the Clyde Corridor and with a shortage of dry dock facilities Govan Graving Docks could have a key role in that. Many of the ferries operating on the West Coast of Scotland are being sent further afield for maintenance because of a shortage of dry dock facilities. Surely it would be better if more of the maintenance work on the ferry fleets operating in the region could be done on the Clyde.

This is the kind of development that could bring long-term skilled work into Govan alongside what we propose to develop as a co working hub for micro-enterprise and social enterprises, to enable young people from the area to create their own opportunities, but within a supportive environment. This is something that would last much longer than temporary construction jobs created by development of executive flats akin to Glasgow Harbour where anecdotally many properties lie empty.

If what maritime infrastructure there is remaining on the Clyde is destroyed, to make way for housing developments, this will greatly undermine any prospects for future development of this industry. Thus the existing infrastructure must be protected, not just in Govan but all along the Clyde and nationwide. The Clyde Docks Preservation Initiative is committed to doing all it can to encourage the protection of maritime/marine assets though it may be that legislation will be required to protect the maritime infrastructure in the region from being disposed of to private developers.

Consultation exercises by The Clyde Docks Preservation Initiative have found almost universal opposition to housing development at Govan Graving Docks. We are currently running a more comprehensive survey to gauge the wider views on the future of the site.

An initial estimate on conceptual proposals for a heritage centre at Govan Graving Docks is that capacity could be created for over 250 permanent jobs and small trading opportunities. This does not include what would be required to operate a commercial dry dock.

A commercial dry dock as part of a shipbuilding heritage centre would enable people to see the process of ship repair as part of a heritage attraction – but in the context of modern maritime industry as well as learning about the history.

With the right strategic approach and the political will from the Scottish Government in the next term, there is no reason why the Clyde and the wider west coast could not in time become a global hub for high-tech maritime industries and smaller shipping. More joined-up thinking is needed across all sectors to realise the full potential of the region.

Iain McGillivray
Executive Director, The Clyde Docks Preservation Initiative

Govan Graving Docks Surveys – Have Your Say

We have launched three surveys this week on the future of Govan Graving Docks. The questionnaires can be found at

The three questionnaires include series of questions on:

  1. General questions on the future of the derelict dry dock site
  2. Feedback on proposals for specific parts of the site
  3. Views on the importance of strategic factors (heritage preservation, job creation, etc) relevant to the future of Govan Graving Docks

You can also join in an interactive conversation on our online forum at

Specific Cost Items for 2016 – Sponsorship Opportunities

We have identified specific costs that we need to cover in 2016 and are giving our supporters, particularly corporate and philanthropic backers, the opportunity to sponsor individual items.

These include a professional logo design, website hosting, office hire and professional services.

You can have your name and/or company name and town identified alongside the item you have contributed.

For more information go to our items pledge page at

Will You Buy us a Drink?

To all our supporters

Happy New Year to you and many thanks again for helping the Govan Graving Docks heritage park petition reach over 7,000 signatures last year.

2015 was an exciting year for the heritage park campaign and the newly established Clyde Docks Preservation Initiative that has emerged from it.

We want to make 2016 the year that we save Govan Graving Docks and start to look at working with other maritime heritage on the Clyde as well.

We would not have reached this far without the support and encouragement the petition and our growing support network has brought but we do need to raise funds urgently to be able to continue our efforts and pull out all the stops to save Govan Graving Docks.

We are asking our supporters to consider making a contribution of £3 (roughly the price of a drink or a large cappuccino!) or however much you feel you can contribute to help cover our costs for the year ahead. We need to rent office space, cover fees for the amount of time our team will need to commit to the project, professional services fees as well as other admin and outreach expenses.

You can make a contribution via Paypal at

or via the website at

Please email us initially if you prefer to pay by other methods.

We thank-you for your continuing support.

Best Regards

The CDPI team

The Case for a Working Dry Dock at Govan

Govan Graving Docks [Glasgow, Scotland] ceased operation as a working dry dock facility in 1987, not as a result of a lack of demand, but largely as a result of the fees levied for navigation access by the port authority at the time.

In spite of the relatively large number of ferries and other vessels serving the West Coast of Scotland there is currently a limited supply of dry dock and maintenance facilities in the region, insufficient to cope with the demand for repair work on the vessels operating there. As a result a lot of the maintenance work on Scottish coastal fleets is going further afield such as to Merseyside.

With shipbuilding on the Clyde no longer looking like an industry in its death throes, the case for recommissioning at least one of the dry docks at Govan has never been greater. Even without immediate demand we need to consider the potential scope of future needs. Anecdotally to build an entirely new dry dock like one of those at Govan would cost in the region of quarter of a billion pounds and even then it would not be created from such unique crafted materials. The walls of the dry docks at Govan are constructed from hand carved granite and even though they are more than 120 years old are structurally superior to many modern docks that are built with concrete walls and requiring a more frequent maintenance cycle.

We need to consider the wider economic needs of the Clyde Corridor and any future moves to reindustrialise the river. In this context Govan Graving Docks would represent a significant marine infrastructure asset. For this reason it must be preserved in the short to medium term in a condition that would allow at least one of the dry docks to be brought back into use relatively quickly for commercial ship repair.

What we have seen on even the lower Clyde in recent decades is conscious removal of the industrial infrastructure that in most places has rendered any form of reindustrialisation, even for development of modern marine industries cost prohibitive. There is a knock on impact from this on the potential for sustainable growth of Scotland’s economy as a whole. This is something the Scottish Government and elected representatives in the Clyde Corridor cannot ignore unless Scotland has permanently resigned itself to being a post-industrial, low-skill economy in a state of managed decline. Not something that supports arguments for greater fiscal autonomy much less independence.

The dry docks at Govan are too small and inaccessible for large ocean going ships but they are ideally sized for passenger and car ferries, smaller commercial vessels and even superyachts.

The West Coast of Scotland, being relatively sheltered with sea lochs and islands, is an ideal location to create a world-class hub for cutting-edge (and more importantly sustainable) marine and maritime industries but little if anything is being done to unlock and develop this potential. We need to protect those infrastructure assets that do exist that could form part of any future marine/maritime economic strategy.

Govan Graving Docks is a site of national and international maritime significance and too unique to be allowed to be turned into an exclusive housing development as has happened to so many docks in Britain. We must avoid too a scenario where local Councillors with parochial agendas can attempt to turn it into a political football for their own ends – which would scupper prospects for any widely beneficial restoration of the site.

The restoration of Govan Graving Docks is a project that calls for innovation, for social entrepreneurs not bureaucrats.