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January 30, 2008

Campaign to Save Pollock Park

Glasgow City Council has been accused of arrogance and not listening to the views of residents. 700 residents attended a public meeting to vent their opposition to Council plans to develop part of the park.


Hundreds of residents demanded a halt to plans to “desecrate” a Glasgow country park last night when they confronted council officials at a packed public meeting.

In a display of public anger, 700 people arrived for the meeting at Pollokshaws Burgh Hall, organised by campaign group Save Pollok Park in opposition to plans to build a treetop adventure course within the park’s woodland.

More than 100 were left out side in the car park while inside the crammed hall local councillors, officials and developers Go Ape struggled to fend off criticism.

As tempers boiled over, BBC broadcaster, Chick Young, wrestled the microphone from a meeting official only to have the audio cut before he could express his evident disgust.

Council officials were repeatedly accused by park goers of failing to advertise its plan to site an aerial assault course in the North Wood, next to the Burrell Collection, costing £20-£25 to take part.

The council has been derided over its public consultation in October, where a majority of respondents were in favour of the Go Ape proposal, half of whom were pupils from a local secondary school.

But when asked by Nicola Sturgeon if they would pause and reopen public consultation in the light of the “unprecedented” turnout council chiefs stood firm.

Turing to face audience, Councillor Ruth Simpson, executive member for land and environment, shouted into her microphone: “We have made a full consultation, and you did not respond.”

Robert Booth, director of land services, was bullish in his defence of the council’s right to grant planning permission, with or without the consent of the Maxwell family or the National Trust for Scotland , who oversee the estate under the terms of the gift to the citizens of Glasgow.

“They have no right of veto. That is our legal opinion,” said Mr. Booth. “I am stunned by the attitude of the National Trust.”

Mr. Booth later indicated that he would “welcome” further discussion with the Trust, before the application goes before the Council’s planning committee.

But when asked again by Ms Sturgeon whether the Council would also reopen public consultation, both he, local councillors Stephen Curran and Colin Deans declined to answer.

It is understood that the majority of councillors are in favour of the Go Ape proposal, which the Council feels will enhance the range of facilities in the park and provide opportunities for teenagers to take part in physical activity.

The founder of Go Ape, Tristram Mayhew, explained to the audience that it was the Council that had originally approached the company with the idea, citing Pollok Park as its preferred location.

The leisure firm was also taken by the Council to see Dawsholm Park, but felt that a lack of toilet facilities and car parking made it unsuitable for their business model. Mr. Mayhew insisted that walkers would not be fenced out of North Wood, and the only noise that would be heard from the trees above was “the laughter of children and families”.

But in his presentation Bob Marshall, of Save Pollock Park campaign group, showed that the woodland would be dominated by the noise of children on zip slides, one of which would pass directly across “the glade” – a popular picnic area.

He said: “We are not against Go Ape being in Glasgow. But we are passionate about Pollock Park. The park has seen development after development and the North Wood is the last substantial area of quiet woodland we have left. In the light of what we have seen tonight at this meeting, we urge the Council to look at other locations and hold a proper assessment.”

The meeting concluded with a show of hands, where only seven of the 550 people in the room were in favour of Go Ape’s proposal.

But even after the vote, Mr. Booth said he remained confident that the course would be proven to be popular.

“We have seen opposition to many developments in the park, such as the mountain bike track, the play area and The Burrell Collection.

“But in the cold light of day people will see that this proposal, if passed by the planning committee, will enhance Pollock Park.”