February 11, 2020
It’s hard to imagine how a minimal amount of commonsense would ever result in the same decision that East Renfrewshire Council has just come to about a patch of previously derelict land. Over a period of eight years the site in question had been transformed by local people into a community allotment site with 60 allotments, a sensory garden and a resource that pupils from the local secondary school with additional needs access on a regular basis. In their infinite wisdom, the Council has concluded that this land should become a car park for teachers.
CAMPAIGNERS have condemned an “absurd” proposal that would see a council spend £1.7 million to destroy a thriving allotment site and replace it with a car park.
The idea is part of a ‘masterplan’ put together by consultants on behalf of East Renfrewshire Council that would extensively redevelop Eastwood Park.
The park currently houses a leisure centre and theatre, the council’s own HQ and St Ninian’s High School.
More than 100 people who use Eastwood Nursery Allotment Association’s site are calling on councillors to rethink the proposals.
Colin Stanage, chairman of ENAA, said: “Local residents have invested more than eight years of time and money in transforming this patch of waste ground into a thriving and environmentally friendly community space.
“It is used not only by individuals but also by the high school and additional needs pupils from Isobel Mair school. We have a sensory garden, and a recently planted orchard with varieties of Scottish fruit trees.
“It is beyond belief that anyone would recommend covering that in concrete and parking cars on it, in this day and age.
“It seems a very strange thing for East Renfrewshire to be contemplating in the year when Glasgow is playing host to the COP 26 UN Climate Change Conference.
“We hope the council will see sense and reject this absurd proposal.”
Two of the four main options proposed by the council’s consultants involve the demolition and relocation of the council offices, as part of a plan to upgrade the sports centre and theatre, and make cosmetic improvements to the approach to the school, which a report says is ‘dominated’ by existing car parking.
Consultants suggest the total project will involve construction costs of between £31 and £42 million.
All but one of the options to be presented to councillors involve demolishing the allotment site – which was set up with council backing just seven years ago – to make way for a £1.7m car park for teachers.
The report merely says the allotments do not “add value” to the park.
The planners suggest they could be moved to a nearby sports pitch currently used by the school.
Were the site moved, the association’s 60 plotholders would lose the results of years of effort and investment.
They also point out this would also mean the waste of more than £100,000 of public funding which has gone into the site since it was set up in 2012, including grants of £75,000 and £21,000 from Whitelee Windfarm Fund, £10,000 from the Big Lottery fund and £5,000 from the council.
Consultants were commissioned after the council’s director of Environment Andrew Cahill said a vision was being developed to create a new park with a mix of different land uses.
In a further report to council in December, Mr Cahill said the consultant’s ideas were merely options. “They are not firm recommendations… they are merely suggestions/possibilities.”
ENAA members are hoping this is the case and councillors will recognise the importance of their site to the area.
No one from the allotments has been consulted about any of the proposals and the committee says it has had no response to a request for the council to meet with plot-holders to discuss them.
Mr Stanage added: “Surely a community facility involving dozens of people in active, environmentally friendly, inclusive and welcoming activities, with a strong community spirit deserves better than that?
“The alternative site is much too small and schools would likely have no space either even though our lease specifies the inclusion of schools.
“But you can’t just ‘move’ an allotment site either. It’s like saying you can move Rouken Glen park a bit to the left.”
Friends of the Earth Scotland’s Air Pollution Campaigner Gavin Thomson said: “Concreting over allotments to provide new car parking spaces is a very concerning proposal.
“Councils and Government have known for years about the devastating impact of air pollution on our health yet they are unwilling to make the necessary changes that will lessen the stranglehold of cars on our lives.”
An East Renfrewshire Council spokesman said: “The consultant’s report presented to councillors in December 2019 is simply a list of options for the council to consider.
“The report identifies a wide range of options, but these are not firm recommendations.
“All options within the report will be discussed in due course. A cross-party member and officer working group is being established to consider the consultant’s report and will report back to the council in due course with proposals on the way forward.”