July 6, 2021
More than a quarter of the population – mostly residing in west/central belt – live within 500m of a derelict piece of land. That’s land not being put to any productive use, uncared for, often unsightly and causing a blight on the neighbourhood. The owners of these sites show little or no regard for the impact they have on local people and appear to pay little heed to the protocols supporting Scottish Government’s Land Rights and Responsibilities Statement. The recent reprehensible behaviour of a developer towards the community growers of Govanhill is more evidence that tighter controls are required.
The South Seed project moved on to a neglected site in St Agnew Lane in Govanhill in 2011, and turned the concrete jungle into an urban garden for the community.
Over time, they planted fruit trees, flowers and vegetables on the land, which had been a magnet for antisocial behaviour in the area.
Because they knew the site was temporary, and could be developed at any moment, South Seed deliberately used techniques and tools that meant the plants could be moved to another site.
They said they made repeated efforts to contact the landowners and let them know what they were doing.
But they were saddened when the site was cleared by the owners at the weekend and say they would have appreciated the chance to move the plants to safety.
Some trees and undamaged raised beds have been rescued, but much of the community’s work was destroyed.
Planning permission had been granted to turn the St Agnew Lane site into housing, but permission was due to expire and a fresh application by Hunter Homes LLP was submitted to Glasgow City Council. They want to build eight mews houses on the land.
Resident Esther O’Connor said: “The Agnew Lane community garden was a beacon of hope in Govanhill. It was a lifegiving project that brought neighbours together.
“It encouraged local kids to grow and eat vegetables. My husband and I have lived on Albert Road for 10 years and through the community garden we have built relationships with people we otherwise would have been unlikely to have engaged with.”
A South Seeds spokesman said: “This is a blow to everyone who has been involved with the project.
“From the very beginning, we were aware that the site was owned by a developer and that planning permission was in place.
“However the land had lain vacant for many years and was a target for fly-tipping, drug abuse and other antisocial behaviour.
“We had always hoped that, given our repeated efforts to engage with the landowner, when such time came they would be prepared to engage with us, and allow us to plan an orderly move from the site. But, due to the nature of our work there, this could never be guaranteed, and we must reluctantly accept that the landowners were within their rights to reclaim the space.
“We were still shocked and disappointed that no such attempts were made to engage with us and that the site was destroyed without notice and without consultation.
“We are particularly upset as we had also been in talks with another local landowner with regard to signing an agreement to use another space very near to the Agnew Lane site, which could have provided a great home for the raised beds, plants and trees that our volunteers have worked so hard to cultivate
“We managed to speak to the contractors while they were in the process of dismantling the site.
“They were sympathetic to our situation and have assisted us in salvaging what remained of the raised beds and timber, and even some fruit trees.
We have put these to one side so that, hopefully, all will not be lost.
“We will be attempting to reinstall what we can in the near future at an alternative site.”