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February 27, 2013

Does it always have to be about winning?

Sometimes a dispute between a local authority and a community can become so deeply entrenched, that common sense and good judgement cease to have any part to play in the proceedings – it’s all about who’s going to win. North Kelvin Meadow seems a case in point.  Everyone bar the Council agree that the Meadow should be saved from the property developers.  The community’s campaign has attracted support from far and wide. Comedian Frankie Boyle has just weighed in.  Council heels just dug in further.



Gerry Braiden, 18/2/13, Evening Times

COMEDIAN Frankie Boyle has become the latest high-profile figure to lend support against development plans by Scotland’s largest local authority.

The controversial comedian backed campaigners opposing plans to build flats and townhouses on a green space site in Glasgow’s West End, saying the city council was “putting money before the life of the community”.

Boyle, who previously spearheaded a successful campaign against a mobile phone mast in the area, joins Children’s Laureate Julia Donaldson and actors Colin McCredie and Tam Dean Burn in throwing their weight behind the North Kelvinside Meadows campaign.

More than 500 letters of objection have been lodged with the council opposing the plans by an Irish-based developer to build 90 townhouses, flats and mews on the former playing fields site.

Several thousand people have also signed the petition against the development.

Glasgow-born Boyle is the latest prominent individual to criticise plans and proposals by Glasgow City Council, and the high-profile current campaign is the latest staged by organised and professional activists.

Local residents helped bring down plans for a nightclub in the nearby Botanic Gardens several years ago, while across the city, campaigners brought advanced proposals for an aerial assault course in Pollok Park to a halt.

Recently, high-profile figures from acclaimed artist Alasdair Gray to the Queens’ official astronomer and sculptor to Scotland Sandy Stoddart, members of indie band Belle and Sebastian and even eccentric rock polymath Julian Cope have opposed plans to remove inner-city standing stones through the aborted revamp of the city’s George Square.

Boyle said: “It would clearly be counterproductive to build on commonly used land, in the face of a huge public protest.

“We have to stop at some point and ask how many shoebox flats does Glasgow need? The way the land is currently used is delivering on a lot of the council’s strategies. Why are they putting money before the life of the community?”

The Meadows, which have lain derelict since the 1970s, have been the subject of a battle with the city council for several years but will now go before the planning committee as soon as next month.

The council has said the site is not a meadow or “greenfield” site but three derelict red blaes pitches that have been grown on and which are designated for residential development.

It was declared surplus in the mid-1990s, and since then a number of attempts have been made to develop the site. The council said these have always included an element of housing and that the developers, New City Vision (NCV), will contribute £1 million to local football pitches and build a play park if it goes ahead.

But campaigners claim the development will see years of community work undone and fear planning approval is “a done deal”.

Campaigner Quintin Cutts said: “We can’t understand how any councillor could vote for this proposal. Still, everyone was against the Otago Lane proposal in the West End, apart from, seemingly, the Labour members of the committee.

“We’re very concerned about how the impartiality of the planning committee would look were the vote to fall on party lines a second time.”

Donaldson, the author of The Gruffalo, said: “Wild spaces are invaluable to children, especially those growing up in towns. They stimulate the imagination and nurture the spirit.

“Places like the Children’s Wood within North Kelvin Meadow are hard to come by in urban settings and so should be preserved at all costs.”

A council spokesman said: “Following a two-stage marketing campaign, which included community consultation, NCV was identified as the preferred developer.

“The council subsequently entered into a legal agreement to sell the site and the sale is conditional on NCV applying for and receiving full planning permission for a residential development with complementary open space.

“A planning application was submitted in August 2012, and will be considered in due course.”