Our objections to the designation of the meadow and wood as housing land have been unreasonably ignored by the planning authority. The Local Development Plan has now gone for review to the Scottish Government with the recommendation to zone as housing. Our voice must now be heard by the Reporter in charge of this review. Please sign and share our petition to show the strength of opinion that the meadow and wood should be zoned as greenspace.
In the Glasgow City Local Development Plan, the Meadow and Wood have been designated as housing supply land, under issue H023. The local community has written numerous objections to this designation, arguing for H023 to be removed and the land designated as green space. The planning authority has responded to these objections, recommending no change to their designation. The summary below explains in brief the case for changing the designation to green space. After that, we argue against the planning authority’s response, demonstrating that the Council has failed to follow its own policy on sports pitches and failed to recognise the changed educational and community use of the Meadow and Wood.
The land in question has always been open space for educational and community use, and it should remain so. Twenty years ago and more, this use was sport-oriented – football, athletics and tennis. Re-purposed by the local community over a 20-year period of council neglect, it is now a wild natural space meeting 21st century educational and community needs: instead of sport, 15 local schools and nurseries within walking distance have been supported by community volunteers to use it to satisfy Curriculum for Excellence outdoor learning directives; multiple weekly volunteer-led activities satisfy Glasgow City Council’s own Play Strategy; and the local community use it as an “outdoor community centre”, growing fresh produce, exercising, and putting on community events. In the 1990s, housing on the site was rejected by the Council’s planners principally on the grounds of insufficient alternative sports facilities in the area. Now, the precedent of that rejection is as valid as ever – no suitable replacement can be offered for this unique, re-purposed, wild space. Far from being “surplus to requirements” as the Council seem to believe, the site is a vital irreplaceable part of educational and community life in this area.
Rebuttal of the planning authority’s argument to retain H023
The planning authority’s argument runs as follows:
1. The site is viewed as constituting red blaes pitches.
2. The 1996 Miller Homes planning application was rejected due to the lack of provision of alternative local sporting facilities to replace the lost amenity, as required by the sports pitch / open space policies in force at the time.
3. In April 2007, the Council’s Executive Committee approved the Sports Pitch Strategy Policy and Implementation Plan.
4. Using this Policy, the cause of the Miller Homes rejection has now been resolved, as follows. In November 2007, “the report” [unnamed and unreferenced] recommended that “the receipt from the sale of the Clouston Street site would be allocated to the upgrading of the existing North Kelvinside pitches” and noted that this decision was made “after consultation and agreement with sportscotland, in compliance with the requirements of Scottish Planning Policy.”
5. The Council view only recent activity on the site as community involvement in its management – referring to “temporary occupation”, and therefore not significant in this determination.
In summary, given that there is now an agreement on providing alternative sporting provision for the loss of the site, the Miller Homes rejection cannot be used in argument against housing on the land.
This is the principal argument made by the planning authority for including the site in the housing land supply for City Plan 3, to which we are objecting. The remainder of their lengthy argument refers to particulars of the current live application by New City Vision to build on the land and is as such irrelevant to issues of site designation in City Plan 3.
Rebuttal of the planning authority’s argument for H023 is as follows:
1. Section 8.5 of Glasgow City Council’s Sports Pitches Strategy (Release of Blaes Pitches) states:
It should be recognised however that sports pitches also act as informal recreational green spaces with value for amenity and informal outdoor use. Any proposals to dispose of sports pitches should be subject to consultation with local communities [our emphasis], and require a determination by Council that these pitch spaces are not required as part of any other open space function [our emphasis].
2. The planning authority claim that consultation took place with sportscotland, but according to the Council’s own policy and strategy, this is insufficient – “consultation with local communities” is required.
3. Nobody in our community can remember such a consultation taking place around 2007. We have asked our councilors to provide evidence of such a consultation, but they have not been able to provide it.
4. We conclude therefore that no such consultation ever took place.
5. Furthermore, according to Section 8.5, the Council is required to determine that the site is “not required as part of any other open space function”.
6. We are unclear how the Council made this determination. The Council view recent activity on the land over the last eight years as “temporary occupation”, perhaps of a semi-formal manner. However, they are clearly unaware that, from when the site was closed as a school sporting area, the local community was using it continually for informal recreation of exactly the kind referred to in the Sports Pitch Strategy. The Inquiry Reporter for the Miller Homes appeal noted in his point 13 that “with an increasing population, the current proposal will remove a valuable community resource. Despite the official view, this site was used regularly by local groups…”.
7. In considering the drafting of City Plan 3, assumably in 2013-14, it would be impossible to consider the site as not being used for “any other open space function.” It was a major venue in the West End Festival. It had won numerous awards. Local schools and nurseries were using the site regularly. Regular events and activities were being hosted by local volunteers. Raised bed allotments were in use. Local citizens used the site for informal recreation.
8. Finally, neither in 2007 nor now, could the site be construed to consist of red blaes pitches. The site was/is grassed over, containing hundreds of trees in many areas sufficiently tall and thick to be referred to as woodland. As such, the refurbishing of the North Kelvinside pitches using the receipt from the sale of this site cannot satisfy the precedent set by the refusal of the Miller Homes application in 1996 – that the local community should be properly compensated for the loss of this open space. Refurbished sports pitches already available to the community cannot be considered as a like-for-like replacement for a unique wild green educational and community space.
On the basis, therefore, of the Council’s failures to exercise its own Sports Pitch Strategy correctly and to recognise the site’s radically altered function for the local community, we call on the Reporter to remove H023 from the local development plan and to redesignate the site on the Glasgow Open Space map as Natural/Semi-natural Green Space or Permanent Green Space.
Wider Concerns with the Planning Authority’s response to our objections to H023
We are surprised that a large proportion of the planning authority’s response justifies the appropriateness of a single planning application live on the site – from New City Vision – and the Council’s intention for building on the site. We understand that the development of a City Plan lays the planning context within which individual applications should be considered. Indeed, the planning authority has rejected a number of our objections to the H023 designation on exactly this basis – that they would be addressed via the planning application process.
On this point, we reject the view that some issues can be left to the planning process. The current density of existing housing in this area can only rise, not fall, and so should be used during the development of a City Plan to determine whether additional housing in this area will have an effect on traffic, local services, pollution, and conservation areas. As noted already, the Inquiry Reporter for the Miller Homes appeal remarked in his point 13 that “with an increasing population, the current proposal will remove a valuable community resource.” That was in 1996. In the last five years, the local population has or will be significantly increased again, with the Queen Margaret Appartments development, the Oban Drive development, building on the old BBC site just off Queen Margaret Drive and the recent planning application on the site of the old North Kelvinside church on Kelbourne Street. No additional community resource provision has come with any of these developments.
The planning authority repeatedly uses the argument that the site has been on the housing land supply list since 1995, when the Council noted the land as surplus to requirements. However, the development of a City Plan should not depend solely on precedent, but, as argued above, on the prevailing needs and wishes of the community and the surrounding area at the time of development.
Additional arguments in the Inquiry Reporter’s rejection of the Miller Homes appeal have been overlooked by the planning authority in their response
· As noted above, the Reporter noted that significant recent building had taken place in the area with no open space compensation. This situation is exactly the same today – with the QM Apartments, the Oban Drive and BBC developments and the proposals in place for the old North Kelvinside church site.
· In his point 14, he notes that the proposed children’s play area should not be viewed as compensation. He writes “Although it is suggested that the proposed children’s play facilities would be available for use by neighbourhood children, that cannot be guaranteed. If the new residents require to maintain the amenity areas, they could resent use by “outsiders” and difficulties could arise.” The Council is still using the argument of a proposed play area as compensation. In a letter from the Chief Execute Annemarie O’Donnell to Patrick O’Grady MP dated 5th June 2015, she writes that “the application currently being considered does include a publically accessibly amenity and informal play area”. The area she notes is tiny and surrounded on all sides by the new development.
PAN 65: Planning and Open Space emphasises that, in preparing Open Space strategies which inform development plans, the open space needs and desires of the local community must be established. It notes that attention should be paid to the aspirations of all communities and interests including children. In the case of this site, the open space desires of the local community have so far been ignored.
Overall, we do not understand the Council’s apparent obsession to build on this site. It has never been built on and has always served local educational and community needs. For 20 years, in the absence of Council management, the local community has worked tirelessly to both maintain the site and find creative ways for it to continue to serve as an educational and community resource. These are not random, temporary efforts. Instead, this is a continuous community engagement, self-funded, resulting in the creation of registered charities and, most recently, the submission of their own planning application in an attempt to end the repeated barrage of action against their wishes.