Residents have reacted furiously to Glasgow Council’s decision to destroy what they claim is the final opportunity for a community park in the city’s heart.
On the casting vote of its Chairman, the Council’s Planning Applications Committee (PAC) voted after a three hour public hearing to agree planning officers’ recommendation of approval for a seven storey building of 109 apartments on the site. This is currently a car park opposite the historic ‘A’ Listed Ramshorn Church.
Almost half the 14 members of the Committee failed to turn up for the hearing, described by Merchant City and Trongate Community Council (MCTCC) as the most important event for local residents in the past 20 years and the culmination of its four year fight for the area’s first green space.
The decision means 21 horse chestnut and cherry trees will be felled. The site, sold by the Council to its own arms length property company, is also home to the world famous mural ‘Fellow Glasgow Residents,’ showing a variety of wild animals and birds peeking through what appear to be holes in a wall.
Tam Coyle, Chair of MCTCC which was one of 143 objectors, commented: “We are devastated and angry at the outcome. It’s ironic since Glasgow was host of the COP 26 UN Climate Change Summit and its leaders have regularly spoken about how determined they are to boost the greening of the city.”
He added: “It has now ruined the last remaining opportunity for a community park in the very heart of the city. No other site is available.”
An acoustics expert told the hearing that residents of the new flats would have legitimate grounds for complaint about noise from the adjacent City Halls and Old Fruitmarket entertainment complexes which host well over 200 events a year and that this could put their continued existence in doubt.
Depute Lord Provost Christy Mearns commented: “I’m bitterly disappointed that Councillors have voted to obliterate the last available open space in Merchant City and putting world-renowned music venues under significant threat of closure.”
She went on: “Unfortunately there is now no chance of ever creating a park here, despite the area crying out for it. The Council says it wants to encourage families and children to live in the city centre yet there is nowhere for them to play or gather. We need new homes but these should be prioritised in appropriate locations”.
Mr Coyle noted that Glasgow had recently come 68th and last in a survey of the greenest cities in Britain carried out by university scientists from England and Australia.
The PAC’s vote was 3-3 but carried on the casting vote of Councillor Ken Andrew (SNP Hillhead).
Mr Coyle commented: “This decision, waved through on the casting vote of one person, is a travesty. It sends absolutely the wrong signal about Glasgow Council’s long repeated mantra of wanting a greener environment for its citizens.”
Other objectors said the proposed development was out of context with existing buildings and hide views of the Ramshorn which dates back to 1720, and add to already serious traffic problems in the area, especially since the proposal had no provision for parking spaces.
Local resident David Hughes told the hearing that Merchant City was the only part of the city centre without a green space and that a park would boost the community’s health and well being,