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January 12, 2011

Council and community still at loggerheads

A protracted dispute between Glasgow City Council and a local community group over a piece of land that lay derelict for years before local people stepped in and transformed it into an award winning community garden, has become increasingly embittered. Despite the community’s success in attracting a long list of high profile supporters, it seems that the council is prepared to make several enemies just to prove a point

“Time is running out to save an award winning community green space in Glasgow’s West End from Developers”.

North Kelvin Meadow, a well used and supported greenspace in the heart of Glasgow’s West End is now the subject of a planning application to build 115 flats, which if successful, will mark the end of this well loved community initiative.

The developer New City Vision Ltd (NCV) chosen by Glasgow City Council has now kicked off their drive to gain planning permission for their housing development by holding two public meetings allowing the community to comment on their design. However the fundamental question of whether any housing development is right for this green space will not be up for discussion (1). They expect their main planning application to go in by March 2011.

Even after two and half years of hard work by the community, GCC have chosen “to carry on regardless with the sale process” and to bulldoze North Kelvin Meadow. They have never consulted with the local people about what should happen to this land.

Local people have been looking after this land in the absence of any management by the Council. And this work has been recognized for two years in a row with an award from Beautiful Scotland.

They have cleared dumped rubbish off the land, regularly pick up litter, run a community composting service, and have set up community allotments so that local residents can grow fruit and veg. This green space is in constant use by dog walkers, children, and others who appreciate it as a wild park. They would like to extend their work to provide a permanent resource for the benefit of the whole community. The development by New City Vision will destroy this work and ensure there is one less public resource for the people of North Kelvinside.

Politicians line up with local people to condemn this action:

Douglas Peacock Chairman North Kelvin Meadow Campaign:

“This planning application if successful will result in a Meadow and community Allotment being bulldozed, 100s of trees being cut down and a successful award winning community initiative ceasing. Thats not a great legacy to leave the next generation to say the least! This land has never been built on and always used for the local community and that should continue.”

“Glasgow City Council are out of step on what people are looking for on this issue, this is backed up by the number of politicians voicing their support plus 1000 people to date have signed the petition, that and the overwhelming support from local people asking that this green space not be built on.”

Patrick Harvie MSP:

“I am pleased to see the Meadow recognised as ‘thriving’ (re award status given by Beautiful Scotland). It is indeed a thriving place for all the community to enjoy and has gone from strength to strength thanks to the remarkable efforts of the North Kelvin Meadow Campaign. It is therefore such a tragedy that Glasgow City Council believes this space should be sold off to property developers.

“The development of luxury flats on the Meadow is in complete opposition to public opinion, and the developer’s gestures at public consultation are nothing more than box ticking. What is best for the community has never been on their agenda, nor Glasgow City Council’s, and I do not believe that residents’ concerns will be genuinely acknowledged or considered by both parties.

“And so Glasgow is threatened with losing a valuable and beautiful space, a space that has brought an incredible amount of joy to all those that have been to one of the numerous events held at the Meadow, and to local residents pleased to see what was once disused land transformed into something so beneficial for their community and the natural environment. There is still time for Glasgow City Council to see sense on this and save North Kelvin Meadow.”

SNP Depute Leader Nicola Sturgeon has recently mentioned, in Dec 2010, the plight of North Kelvin Meadow:

“Too often people with great ideas to reclaim derelict land and buildings for their community face real problems in purchasing the building or persuading public sector owners not to sell to commercial developers……

“Across Scotland there are people with ideas to bring derelict land and buildings back into use for social enterprises, small businesses, community centres and environmental projects. There are hundreds of derelict sites across Scotland and public buildings that are not being put to use.  When people have good ideas to improve their area we should do our best to help them.  That is the job and responsibility of Government and is one the SNP take seriously……..“Projects like that run by the Comrie Development Trust who have turned old army huts on land outside the village into business premises with plans to generate renewable energy show what can be achieved, while the problems facing community efforts to bring North Kelvin Meadow in Glasgow back to life show the difficulties that are too often faced.”

Glasgow Allotment Federation (GAF) sent a Resolution to Glasgow City Council: Robert Booth Director Land Environmental Services and Gerry Gormal Director Development Regeneration Services.

‘In view of the huge shortage of allotments in Glasgow, especially in the Westend,with an 8 year waiting time, GAF urges GCC to release Clouston St. Playing Fields (Site 1703) for use for horticultural allotments and as a  community greenspace. This meeting notes the interest by New City Vision in building flats on this site. However the site is a Green field Site (the only one in the North Kelvin/Hillhead area) and therefore its use for building runs  counter to CITY PLAN 2 which strongly prefers the use of Brownfield sites for building as  well as supporting a Development Strategy to “improve residents health by providing local access to facilities,including greenspaces, cultural and sporting facilities “