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January 11, 2017

A landmark ruling

This feels like a landmark moment. For almost twenty years a community group had been at loggerheads with their council over what should happen to a plot of land.  Both sides, it could be argued, had a legitimate case. The Council see the land as an asset to be sold on the open market to generate a much needed capital receipt. Locals view it as a vital community asset that for many years has generated significant social and environmental benefits. After a formal planning inquiry, Scottish Government Ministers announced their ruling on the case just before Christmas.


Gerry Braiden, The Herald

CAMPAIGNERS in the long-running battle to save an inner-city woodland from development have won their fight as ministers rule against the plans.

Opponents of the plan to build around 100 town houses on the site in Glasgow’s west end have been informed by the Scottish Government that it has refused planning permission, marking a victory in the five-year campaign for residents and their high-profile supporters.

The Government had the role as final arbitrator in the scheme as Glasgow City Council, the owners of the North Kelvinside Meadow, would have stood to gain from its sale to developers. A two-day inquiry by the Government’s planning ‘reporter’ weas held in the summer.

The decision marks the culmination in almost two decades of high-profile opposition to building on the west end site. It was declared surplus in the mid-1990s, and since then a number of attempts have been made to develop the site.

But the campaign group, the Children’s Wood, now plan on buying the plot and retaining it as a community asset.

In a letter to all parties issued on Tuesday, the Government said: “Ministers have carefully considered the report. They accept and agree with the reporter’s overall conclusions and recommendations and adopt them for the purpose of their own decision.

“Accordingly, Ministers hereby dismiss the application and refuse planning permission for the erection of residential development with associated parking, landscaping and vehicular access and demolition of existing structures at Kelbourne Street/Sanda Street/Clouston Street, Glasgow.

It added that the “decision of Ministers is final” but allows the developers, Irish-based New City Vision, the right to take the decision to the Court of Session.

It said: “On any such application the Court may quash the decision if satisfied that it is not within the powers of the Act, or that the appellant’s interests have been substantially prejudiced by a failure to comply with any requirements of the Act, or of the Tribunals and Inquiries Act 1992, or any orders, regulations or rules made under these Acts.”

The campaign has become a major cause celebre in Glasgow and one of a high-profile series run from the west end which has caused the city council considerable turbulence in recent years.

As well as a being run by a highly-organised and articulate group, supporters of the meadow campaign have included leading children’s author Julia Donaldson, Turner Prize-winning artist Richard Wright, Franz Ferdinand’s Paul Thomson, musician RM Hubbert, writers Bernard MacLaverty and Alasdair Gray, comedian Frankie Boyle, and various individuals from academia, the arts and civic Scotland.

The Scottish Government report states the main reasons for rejecting the plans for housing were loss of open space, inappropriate mitigation for all the multi-functional uses such as schools and community groups and the loss of biodiversity.

The campaign and outcome could set a precedent for other areas and could help to change the policy around land and community empowerment.

Emily Cutts, chairwoman of the Children’s Wood, said: “This is brilliant news. I think the result shows that fatalism need not prevail and that communities can make a difference.

“I hope that our success today will show other communities that they can succeed too. It’s great that the government recognise that this is not nimbyism and that we have created valuable and sustainable activities like our work with 20 schools, our outdoor clubs, community events and other growing projects which tackle some of the most urgent 21st century needs.”

Game of Thrones actress Kate Dickie, a long-term supporter of the campaign, said: “I’ve just heard the wonderful news that the Children’s Wood and Meadow has been saved. Bravo to our community for all of their tireless campaigning.It’s the best Christmas Present for the kids ever.”