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July 1, 2009

Park is saved but lessons need to be learned

18 months ago, Glagow City Council’s decision to bring in private developer Go Ape to create a leisure attraction in Pollock Park sparked outrage.  Criticisms at the lack of consultation, the loss of an important amenity, and the fact that this was part of Glasgow’s Common Good, added fuel to the campaign. Last week the developers walked away from the deal. They had had enough. The Council were disappointed. The campaigners were delighted

Save Pollock  Park campaigners win the day

In a press statement today, Jerome Mayhew of Go Ape said:

“Having taken into account National Trust for Scotland’s request that we try to avoid constructing additional buildings in the park, we have carefully explored the possibility of using a part of the existing Knowehead Lodge as our customer reception and equipment store. However, we have concluded that the amount of work required to adapt the building to incorporate our reception area would be too extensive and impractical. We have therefore decided, after much thought, not to go ahead with building a course in Pollok Park.

“We are obviously disappointed that this will prevent us from providing a healthy and exciting new recreational activity for Pollok Park and for Glasgow and would like to take this opportunity to thank Glasgow City Council and the many people in the local area who have openly supported us.”

Robert Booth added:

“Obviously we regret Go Ape’s decision not to proceed with their facility at Pollok Park. Our main objective was to secure an additional attraction for park users at no cost or financial risk to the Council. The loss of such an exciting venue for health and recreational activity within the park and of course the 2000 annual free places which would have been available to Glasgow groups young and old is therefore a major disappointment.

“Notwithstanding this we are delighted that the Company’s future plans continue to include Scotland with their 2nd site scheduled to open early next year and wish them well with their ongoing discussions with the National Trust for Scotland on the potential opening of their 3rd site in one of the Trust’s own locations.

“The public can be assured that the Council will continue with its commitment to improve its parks and open spaces by providing quality facilities everyone can enjoy and make use of. “

Save Pollok Park tonight issued the following statement:

“We’re delighted with this outcome and we want to thank all our supporters for sticking with us over the last eighteen months. Our campaign was backed by thousands of Glasgow residents who wanted to keep Pollok Park’s North Wood as the haven of peace the Maxwell family envisaged when they gifted it to the citizens of Glasgow. It’s just a pity it’s taken so long to reach the obvious conclusion.”

“Throughout this saga the Council failed to consult its taxpayers properly or listen to protests. They did not address the legal and operational issues which we believe made the proposal a non-starter anyway. A great deal of public money and time has been wasted in futile posturing.”

“Go Ape was never part of a health agenda as the Council claimed but simply a crass attempt to cash in on a dear green place. The council has now lost two major park schemes to popular protest and they need to rethink the commercialisation of such open spaces or risk further defeats.”

“In March 2008 we characterised the council’s handling of the planning application as ’slapdash and incompetent’ as they failed to consider key evidence on a number of planning issues. For instance they did not consult NTS which has the lead conservation role. “

“In the last 12 months we have pointed out to council officers many other problems with the plan including the fact that this is Common Good land and cannot be leased without Court consent; precedent showed this approval was unlikely. The Chief Executive’s department failed to respond and we now call upon the appropriate council committee to investigate these failings which have cost the taxpayer and Go Ape dear.”

“We are also critical of the NTS. As conservator of the Park they failed in their duty to oppose the scheme vigorously when legal opinion obtained by Save Pollok Park clearly showed they had an obligation to do so. Had they made their position clear from the start the scheme would have been dead in the water.”