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November 3, 2020

Worth the wait

25 years ago, it was just an old playing field in North Glasgow that had fallen into disrepair. Over the years the community had gradually taken ‘ownership’ of the site, worked hard to bring the land back into productive use and for years it has been a much loved hub for community activity and a Children’s Wood. But the community never actually owned North Kelvin Meadow and at various points, the Council has tried to take back control and proceed with a housing development. Finally, after years of acrimony, and even court appearances, the Council and community are reconciled.

A community campaign to protect former playing fields in Glasgow from developers has succeeded after a 25-year battle.

The bid to save the area, which was cleaned up and renamed the Children’s Wood and North Kelvin Meadow, has involved public hearings and protests.

Over the years it has been backed by teachers, climate campaigners and celebrities.

As a result Glasgow City Council has now granted a community asset transfer.

A local charity, which runs the site in Maryhill, had submitted an application to have the area transferred to the community last year.

However, while they awaited the outcome, the council inserted a clause allowing them to take back an undefined part of the land at any point for “educational purposes”.

This triggered fears the site could be built on in the future but, following an online public hearing, it was withdrawn and the group were granted a 25-year lease for the land.

A Glasgow City Council spokesman said: “The committee approved the removal of the condition, as requested by the Children’s Wood.”

Prof Niamh Stack, chair of the Children’s Wood, described it as a “community anchor” which is especially valuable in the current climate.

She said: “The Children’s Wood is so much more than just a physical space: it is a hub of community actions that can now be determined by, and for, that community.”

Emily Cutts, director of the charity, praised the councillors who voted to support the asset transfer and back the community’s “shared vision”.

She added: “The land, and what happens on it, is a model for how we can create sustainable, playful and resilient communities.

“Given the year we have all had, we needed this news now more than ever and it takes a large weight off our community.

“I hope our historic agreement with the council inspires others to create and support outdoor community spaces for all to use, particularly with children in mind. When children are at the heart of a project it brings everyone together.”

Marguerite Hunter Blair, chief executive of Play Scotland, described the success as a “pot of gold at the end of the rainbow moment” for locals.

And local resident and actor Tam Dean Burn said: “It’s inspiring that Glasgow Council have recognised and endorsed the true value of this wonderful green space with this decision.

“I’m hugely excited at how the community self-empowerment that got us here can now further develop as a shining example to other areas of Glasgow and beyond in desperate need of such grassroots sanctuaries.”

In 2016 the Scottish government blocked controversial plans for a new housing development on the site at Clouston Street, which had fallen into disuse.

The move came 11 months after councillors took the unusual step of backing the controversial housing development and the opposing community use plan.