Here’s an update on what’s been done and said so far (get yourself a cup of tea or coffee as its a long one!) :
The campaign has been in the Evening Times, the Big Issue and most recently, The Herald Magazine. We’ve also been interviewed on STV news and Clyde FM. We’ve had site visits and support from MSPs Bob Doris (SNP); Patrick Harvey (Green) and Robert Brown (Lib Dem), local Councillor Billy McAllister , local Councillor Kieran Wild and the petition, both online and on paper, has attracted over 500 signatures since 3rd June. Authors Louise Welsh and Alasdair Gray have also provided their backing. This is fantastic momentum and shows overwhelmingly support by people for the campaign.
However local Councillor Jim Mackechnie is just as keen to sell the land for flats. He’s previously said when referring to this land ” I am afraid I do not believe allotments would add to the amenity of the locality. They would be visually unattractive”. He goes on to tell the Herald Magazine “There is no trespass law in Scotland , but trespassing is what these people are doing. They should not be there.” So it continues to be an uphill battle to put forward the point that people not only want a place to grow their food, and remember part of the proposal here is to have a community orchard, so thats 150+ raspberry bushes, blackberry bushes and apple trees etc , the fruit being free to the local people (we’ve already started this). Buts its also to have a green space for health, recreation and well being. Often people ask who owns the land? The answer is the Council but they are there to manage it on the peoples behalf. What’s happening here is the Council are taking a different view from the local people and while that can sometimes be justified when needing to look at a wider picture. It surely doesn’t apply for this Green Space not being turned into a housing estate. Indeed on a wider front the Scottish government has asked the Councils to free up more land for this type of activity we’re doing here. The Council finds themselves the odd one out.
Glasgow Council have stated they see this land as revenue generating i.e. it should be sold. And while the funds will no doubt be used for worthwhile projects throughout Glasgow (one hopes) , they haven’t understood what this land now means for the local people, what it has become and what it could be. The main project they would like to fund with the sale proceeds is a renovation of the blaze football pitches on the corner of Queen Margaret Drive and Maryhill Road. £1.1m of this land sale will go towards the total renovation cost being £3.8m. The expected sale price of the North Kevin Meadow had been approx £12m last summer but with the credit crunch has dropped to £10.3m last we heard. The Council are still in neg. but it could well be the case the deal is watered down even further due to the state of the property market. The renovation cost of the North Kelvinside Football pitches off Maryhill road needs to stand on its own merits. It shouldn’t be linked into what’s right for this green space. The Council could decide to use funds from other sources to pay for the renovation of the North Kelvinside Football Pitches. And its not too late for them to decide that either.
Steve Inch who is Director of Regeneration Services for Glasgow Council says ” Although the current difficulties within the property market have (and indeed continue to) delay the development, the Council and New City Vision are very close to finalising the missives for the disposal of the site, and I expect these to be completed and signed by late July. The developer advises me completion of the missive will unlock the funding necessary to undertake all of the detailed design work on the development, and they anticipate submitting a detailed planning application around the end of 2009. ” he goes on to say “You should note that as of 3 August 2009 applicants for major scale developments will be required to consult local communities before a planning application is made. This is separate from pre-application discussions with the planning authority and other bodies. The Council has produced a note of guidance detailing the pre-application consultation requirements for applicants. The threshold for major housing developments is 50 units, so this site falls into that category.”
So even if the sale goes through there is still an opportunity for you the people to save this land.
Putting aside the question of whether the land should be sold and asking whether this property market following the credit crunch would give “Best Value” for any land sale. The Council has refused to comment. It states its been in negotiations with New City Vision Ltd for about a year now. So the issue from a taxpayers view point is this land can only be sold once by the Council and having kept it on its books for decades, 2009 doesn’t appear to be the best year for best value.
In contrast the cost to the Council this last year on all the work that has been done on the Meadow by local people has been zero.
Various letters from the Council talk about the plans having a substantial green space. Unfortunately the detail shows something entirely different. It won’t be substantial or green. 20% will be open space and while that might sound a lot in actual fact it isn’t. Its actually quite difficult to build on 100% of the land, just due to the design of flats, pockets and islands of space will exist. It won’t be in any measure a community green space. The only trees kept will be the old lime trees along Clouston Street, all others will go.
Little has been mentioned so far of the plans to build flats on the site of the former School off Queen Margaret Drive. With so many plans for additional flats local Residents are worried over car parking issues.
Bats have also been found on the land but its not clear whether that’s enough to stop the flats being built.
As far as this land is concerned we see this as a test case, are the Council willing to move with the times in terms understanding what people want or are they taking the easy option and sell the land? Going into the online petition (see news item below) and reading the comments gets a good idea what people want, further demonstrated by Glasgow having an 8 year waiting list of allotments. We are also encouraged to be part of something bigger – many other people and communities across Scotland and the UK are in a similar position, with a lack of accessible, green space for health, relaxation and recreation, as proven by the success of Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall’s Landshare which we are a part off – there are lots of other North Kelvin Meadows out there!
So in summary there has been overwhelming support for the North Kelvin Meadow Campaign to save the land but its been met with an inflexible Council who still won’t listen and want to carry on with the sale process regardless.