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April 23, 2008

Glasgow Botanics saved by people power

Last year Glasgow City Council approved plans to convert a corner of Glasgow’s famous Botanic Gardens into a bar and nightclub. That decison sparked a furious outcry from local residents. After months of hard campaigning, the Save Our Botanics group has won an important victory

They should have known better. To some within the ruling Labour ranks and civic officialdom it was an ideal use for an overgrown slice of parkland. But few issues in recent years have inflamed public passions and created electoral jitters as the proposal to create a bar and nightclub within Glasgow’s Botanic Gardens. Last week council leaders killed off the controversial plans.

Campaigners said the decision was a victory for “people power”.

David Howat, chairman of Save Our Botanics, said: “I’m absolutely delighted. This shows that if people feel really strongly and make their views known then sometimes they will prevail.”

Kelvin MSP Pauline McNeill said: “Credit is due to everyone who has been involved in the campaign and I welcome this as the right decision.”

Steven Purcell, leader of Glasgow City Council, confirmed he has told the developers, Scotland-wide leisure chain G1 Group, that the authority will not proceed with any scheme for the site within Glasgow’s Botanic Gardens.

Yesterday, Mr Purcell said that, while the council was committed to commercial or publicly led schemes within its parks but “which do not compromise them”, it was unlikely there would be any developments in the short to medium term. He said: “Despite several months of negotiations with the developer the position is that this scheme doesn’t represent best value. I have informed the company and its managing director Stefan King that the entire scheme is now dead and that this is now being confirmed in writing.”

The issue has been a thorn in the side of Glasgow’s Labour administration since it was approved in principle last June, with protesters launching a high-profile campaign against the scheme and schisms increasingly emerging within the Labour Party.

Last month actor Robert Carlyle spoke of his “anger” over the plans, while celebrities Bill Paterson, Greg Hemphill and Ford Kiernan, Belle and Sebastian frontman Stuart Murdoch, writers Alistair Gray and Tom Leonard and botanists and academics from across the UK voiced opposition.

Mr King is said to be “bitterly disappointed” and is understood to have accused the city council of changing the goal posts to what had been agreed because of opposition and of going public with details of the negotiations.