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  • Writer's pictureRachael Fulton

Dear Green Places: The Fight for North Kelvin Meadow

Although given the moniker Dear Green Place, it's looming tenement blocks, high rises and miles of pavement that knit our city together.

Development has a way of creeping across city landscapes, edging bricks and mortar over grassy area, casting grey shadows over greenery.

One local group, the North Kelvin Meadow Campaign, is fighting to prevent their dear green place being crushed beneath concrete.

The 1.4 hectare space, which belongs to Glasgow City Council, lay untended for decades before the Council announced plans to sell the land to developers.

"What we have here is a piece of wild, natural space in the heart of the city of Glasgow," said Douglas Peacock, Chairperson of the North Kelvin Meadow Campaign.

"It's not like the Botanics. I love the Botanics, but it's an internationally recognised garden kept at a really high standard.

"We are a wild green space where Mother Nature rules the roost and we help her out. We don't cut things back unless there's a problem, and our grass doesn't really get cut."

The untamed grounds have become the centre of the North Kelvin community - a shared project between neighbours, a place for children to play and a communal territory worth defending.

During the years after its life as a playing field came to an end, the space fell into disrepair and became prone to litter and broken glass. 40 foot trees now sprout through its tennis courts and its grass is peppered with wild flowers.

In 2004, the Council backed a planning proposal to build 90-115 flats atop the meadow, and although this original plan fell through, the threat of housing development has hung over the North Kelvin community ever since.

In response, local people made a stand against the Council's suggested plans and rallied support from their neighbours to protect their green space. Questionnaires carried out across 1700 homes in the area showed an overwhelming 94% opposition against the plans.

They have been campaigning against it ever since and have garnered over 1500 petition signatures, yet they are still awaiting news that proposed plans are going ahead.

"People need green spaces. We're living in four storey tenement flats in the area, and this is a place where people can not only walk through but use," said Douglas.

"It really taps into what people of all ages really need and want. They're not looking for more flats - we're busy enough.

"We need places our kids can play rather than street corners, and we want to grow our own food. Glasgow has big issues, especially where we live, for drugs, drink and obesity. The meadow taps into these issues.

"There's less crime when you get the community involved in looking after land, the kids get up to less mischief and you can hardly do any damage in the meadow because it's a natural space."

The meadow is home to woodland, now nick-named The Children's Wood for the host of kids' activities and events held between its 480 towering trees.

The meadow also has an open allotment garden where locals plant their own vegetables on raised beds, and has a fruit orchard that is gradually blossoming and bearing apples for crumble.

'Forest School' is held in the Children's Wood on Friday morning and there is a pre-school nursery on Wednesday mornings to allow kids to play and learn about nature, focusing on exploring their creativity in the outdoors. The wood will also host a group of reindeer on December 14 from 4pm - 8pm to get kids excited for Christmas.

Julia Donaldson, Glaswegian author of children's book The Grufallo, has had readings performed of her world famous book in the depths of the Children's Wood and family activities held in the Meadow regularly attract hundreds of visitors.

"The kids were spellbound hearing the story. There's a big difference between listening to The Gruffalo at home and listening to it in the wood - it's a different feeling they get," said Douglas.

"If you go down to the meadow during the day you'll have mums and dads roaming around, letting their kids play. Then there's students down there in the summer months with their laptops, sitting writing their thesis and studying."

The North Kelvin campaigners have just finished planting 400 bulbs in the land, a task they all share at this time of year to populate the space with plants. They nurture their growing orchard and allotments, make their own compost and together ensure the area remains a comfortable place to relax in.

Despite their endeavours, the risk of losing their beloved plot still lurks in the background of every vegetable planted and every storybook page turned. The wild space that has become a playground and learning zone for local children and a welcome escape for city-dwelling adults may not be around forever.

New City Vision (NCV) has been identified as the Council's preferred developer for the site and moves are being made towards selling the area to NCV, with a planning application already submitted. The company must apply and receive full planning permission for a residential development and open space in order to get the go-ahead from the Council.

A spokesman for Glasgow City Council said of the space and plans for development:

"For many decades, the Clouston street site was a complex of two full-sized sports pitches and one half-sized pitch. The site was declared surplus by Strathclyde Regional Council in 1993 and since then a number of attempts have been made to develop the site, always including an element of housing.

"The site is not considered a 'greenfield' site, and has been designated in the last two City Plans as land appropriate for residential development.

"The developer was selected on the basis of their presenting the best financial offer, and their design was the one that had most support at the community consultation day which the council held back in 2008. The capital receipt from the sale of the site was used to fund the construction of a new playing facility at the corner of Queen Margaret Drive and Maryhill Road."

Visit the North Kelvin Meadow Campaign website and The Children's Wood website to find out more about the campaign.

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