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North Kelvin Meadow campaign says its case is strong in face of housing plans

Postcard campaign to be launched by campaigners battling to safeguard open space in the West End from housing development.

A community campaign to safeguard North Kelvin Meadow in the West End of Glasgow says there is "cautious optimism" that its arguments will be vindicated as a reporter decides soon how to investigate the proposals.

Supporters of the open space meadow and the associated Children's Wood that lies off Clouston Street, near Queen Margaret Drive are keeping up the pressure on the Scottish Government as the long-running saga enters a new phase.

Watch: Campaign spokeswoman Emily Cutts explains why the open space means so much to the community.

A reporter appointed to look at the controversial plan to build 90 homes on the site is shortly to decide whether a full public inquiry is necessary to air all the facts surrounding the long and complex saga; on one hand, the years of community involvement at the meadow. And on the other, the planning and housing needs of the city.

In essence, campaigners against say the plans submitted by New City Vision will be bad for the community, will limit local people’s access to open space and will seriously impact on children’s ability to engage with nature and to learn in and enjoy the outdoors.

Developers New City Vision say they are just seeking to use the land for housing as intended in the city's planning blueprint. And it claims the quality of its design has gained widespread approval.

The council approved the application for development in January by a vote of eight to six.

In March, the application was called in by the Government because ministers said it raised national issues regarding the potential loss of open space, and because of the council's own financial interests in the case.

Engagement: Campaigners say the meadow and wood have fostered a vibrant community.

The reporter has yet to decide on which method of investigation will be used and will need to select either a hearing, report or public inquiry.

Now the focus of the campaign has switched to raising the arguments surrounding the meadow and wood with the newly-appointed Communities Minister Angela Constance.

Campaigners will use an event this weekend at the meadow which has been programmed as part of the West End Festival to lobby the new minister and to bolster the case for a full public inquiry.

Emily Cutts, Children's Wood spokeswoman, said: "We feel what we're doing here really fits with community empowerment and the aims which both the city and the government have for green space and for outdoor learning.

"So we are hoping that people can contact Angela Constance. We have got a postcard campaign starting at the West End Festival event starting this Sunday where we will be asking Angela to look into this and to investigate it more thoroughly. She will get thousands of letters through the door.

Playtime: Children's and mother's groups are among the regular users of the community wood.

There have been many twists and turns in the saga of the site over recent years.

An effective and high-profile campaign backed by many well-known people from the arts and media has been organised by the community.

A letter this week calling for a full inquiry was signed by children’s author Julia Donaldson, Children’s Commissioner for Scotland Tam Baillie, and Turner Prize-winning artist Richard Wright.

An alternative plan put forward by the wood and meadow campaigners to utilise the area as a community space has also already been granted approval.

Emily said: "The community historically has always wanted this land for the community and over the years we have been campaigning to try and keep the space as a community resource.

"Over the last four years we have been focusing particularly on building community through children, working with 22 schools, which has then grown out to a community garden, and the land today is really multi-functional. It is used in so many ways.

"So we put a counter planning application in for keeping the land as a community resource."

Counter: Campaigners submitted their own plans for the site which were unanimously approved.

Emily says there is "cautious optimism" that their case is strong and that precedent is on their side, as a previous hearing in to an application in the late 1990s went in favour of the local community.

"New City Vision's application got through just, with eight in favour and six against. And ours got a hundred per cent support.

"But the application was called in because of the controversy around the site. We are hoping following the call-in that a full inquiry will be heard so that it can be investigated.

"We really believe that if a public inquiry is used as the method of investigation by the reporter he will actually get to the heart of the matter, which will show that that this space has a really strong history, a very active present and a really good future.

"We've now got funding from the Robertson Trust and the Postcode Lottery. We've got two employees, we're now providing jobs for the community. It's a much better alternative than housing.

Schools: The woods and open space are used by an extensive number of local schools and nurseries.

"High-end housing will basically kill the community because people with less income will not only not bave a place to play but won't have a place to meet their neighbours. So it's really a double whammy.

"We are providing something that is really quite exciting and innovative for the future so we are hoping a public inquiry will show this."

For many decades, the 1.4 hectare site was a well-used recreational space with two full-sized pitches, one half-sized pitch and changing rooms before falling into disuse in the mid-1990s.

Since then, a number of attempts have been made to develop the site, always including an element of housing.

Football: The land was used for many decades as sports pitches before falling into disuse in the 1990s.

According to the council, the land has never been considered a ‘greenfield’ site, and has been designated in a number of City Plans as land appropriate for residential development.

The site has been included in Glasgow’s Housing Land Supply since 1995.

Harry O'Donnell, chairman of NCV group, said his company had responded to a council invitation to submit development proposals for a site earmarked for housing within the local plan.

"The site has had this designation for many years. At a public consultation organised by the council as part of their assessment process the NCV design was selected by four out of every five people who opted to venture an opinion.

"At the planning committee where the project was granted planning permission the design was commended again even by elected members who voted against the scheme."

Homes: The council says the plans would bring much-needed family homes to the area.

Harry said: "This highlights the point that the current debate is unusual in that we are not encountering the usual issues such as scale, massing, materials density and so on; the current debate is about a challenge to the current planning status of the site and to that extent as developers we have little to add.

"What we have noted however is that the area is well served with some of the finest open space anywhere in the city.

"This includes the Botanic gardens and the Kelvin Walkway. In addition there are three children's play areas within the immediate area.

"For our part we are now awaiting the outcome of the Reporters assessment and will accept the decision which follows."

Plans: Developers say the proposals are high quality and allow for amenity space.

A council spokesman said: “The development of the Clouston Street site would bring much-needed family homes in the West End and improve the North Kelvinside pitches facility for the use of the local community, as well as providing a substantial receipt for the public purse in a time of unprecedented financial constraints for local government.”

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