As mentioned in previous blogs, Glasgow City Council has announced a £30bn 'Greenprint for Investment' programme which aims to help the city achieve its net-zero goal by 2030. This includes a proposal to build a Green Infrastructure Cap over the M8 at Charing Cross between Woodlands Road and St Vincent Street and create a new public space.

Connecting the city

The M8, and notably the section at Charing Cross, is one of the most polluted roads in the UK. Since its construction in the 1960s it has proved controversial for breaking up local communities and creating barriers for people to move around the city easily. It is hoped that the proposed project would help resolve these issues by creating a green and sustainable connection between Glasgow City Centre and the West End. The creation of the new green space will allow for direct pedestrian and cycle routes to be built and reduce the need for vehicular transport. This in turn will reduce both emissions and noise pollution in the area.


Of course, constructing such a project is not without its challenges, including technical and legal. Technically, it will be more complex than most construction projects and minimising disruption to the city dwellers, workers and visitors as work takes place on and over the main artery through the city will be no easy task.

The international use of such schemes provides confidence in the feasibility of such a project for Glasgow. Although this type of project would be the first of its kind in the UK it has been carried out worldwide. Since 2014 the 'Hamburg Roofs' project has been building caps over sections of the autobahn near Hamburg. In America 'freeway lids' have proven popular in cities across the country in places such as Dallas with plans for developments in Seattle and Philadelphia.

Legally, there may also be challenges. Whilst the M8 and local road network are controlled by The Scottish Ministers and Glasgow City Council, this control does not extend to all airspace above the motorway and land on which the cap will be grounded. Before any construction can happen, the authorities will need to establish who owns what and where and either buy in ownership of the land and airspace or obtain servitude rights over them. Given the complexity and potential number of interests involved, a Compulsory Purchase Order (CPO) may be required to ensure that all land and rights in land are acquired. CPO is an effective tool for land assembly in circumstances like this.

Environmentally friendly construction

It is evident that the longer-term goals of the project have the environment and sustainability at the heart of what is being done. However, it is equally important that the construction phase of the project has these principles in mind as well. So how can this be achieved?

The Chancery Lane Project (TCLP) is trying to provide a solution. It is a collaboration of lawyers around the world providing clauses for contracts which can be used to help promote environmental and sustainable goals. Some of the TCLP's clauses could be used for or be a starting point for negotiations on any agreements for the cap over the M8. For example, clauses dealing with:

  • Sustainable on-site working practices requiring that contractors to follow stricter 'Green Working Practices'. The practices could include a variety of requirements including reducing the amount of water used, recycling and reusing materials and using more electric tools. To incentivise compliance, it is proposed that a 'Green Retention Fund' is used. At the end of construction, the contractor will be paid a proportion of the fund dependent on their level of compliance with the Green Working Practices.
  • Construction materials - This would create a 'Carbon Budget' for the project. By encouraging contractors to use sustainable and local materials it will reduce greenhouse gas emissions. If the Carbon Budget is exceeded, then Liquidated Damages may be imposed.
  • Climate standard of care requiring the contractor to meet 'Net Zero Objectives' and to consider how local and global stakeholders are impacted by climate change. The contractor will have to provide regular updates showing how they are meeting their obligations.

Overall, this is an ambitious project but the challenges are far from insurmountable and more green space for the people of Glasgow is to be welcomed.