Monthly Archives: March 2016

Planning application lodged for Visitors Centre and Gardens on Park Quadrant

3D Visual 3

Campaigners fighting plans to build a modern block of flats in one of Glasgow’s most historic areas have submitted an alternative proposal for public gardens and a visitors’ centre that will celebrate the unique architectural heritage of the Park district.

They have lodged a planning application for a pavilion on Park Quadrant which, they claim is more in keeping with the historic buildings that surround the site and its status as a conservation area.

The project, that includes a statue to Charles Wilson, the 19th century architect who designed the area, will provide a public benefit and enhance Glasgow City Council’s vision  for the area as an international-standard Cultural Quarter, according to campaigners.

The proposed Charles Wilson Pavilion and Gardens, which has the full support of the local Community Council, will be built and managed by a charitable trust with funding expected to come from the Heritage Lottery Fund as well as from private donations.

The proposal, expected to go before Glasgow City Council’s planning committee in May, will present councillors with an alternative to plans by Leeds-based developer Expresso Property to build a six-storey block of 98 modern flats on the site.

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Plans and 3D modelling of the pavilion and gardens, drawn-up by architects and landscape specialists employed by the Park and Woodlands Heritage (PAWH) group, will go on display on Wednesday (March 16) in the local St Silas Church Hall,  Woodlands, as part of a public exhibition and consultation event.

The event has been organised to give the community the opportunity to see the designs first hand and to offer comments and suggested amendments.

The project design follows extensive research in the Woodlands and Park area to establish the views of local residents and to determine future needs.

As well as including refurbished gardens, children’s play area and nature trail, there will also be a pavilion incorporating a café and gift shop; a flexible gallery/ interpretation space, telling the history of the area; and a meeting/education space, all of which will help generate revenue to support running costs and sustainability of the project.

The facility will be owned and managed by a charitable trust that will employ a small number of people on an ongoing basis, on both a full and part time basis, funded from community and commercial activities.

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Supporters say the heritage project is driven by a desire to maintain outdoor facilities that allow the local community to celebrate the unique architecture of the area while safeguarding its green space.

A spokesman for the PAWH group said: “By regenerating the Park Quadrant gardens, we will not only provide a community and visitor asset, but will maintain the integrity of the site and the setting of the wider, world-class conservation area for future generations.

“We’re seeking to develop a facility that will tell the story of our history and attract visitors who will use the pavilion and gardens and its facilities.

“We anticipate offering spending opportunities in the proposals to allow us to generate funds to maintain the garden and pavilion on an ongoing basis, ensuring community access into the future.”

There is considerable local opposition to the proposal by Expresso Property to develop flats on the site which, locals say, will spoil one of Europe’s finest examples of Victorian heritage, architecture and urban planning.

The spokesman added: “There is, rightly, a lot of concern that this historic area should not be destroyed by an ill-thought out plan, motivated by private profit.

“Our alternative proposal will make proper use of the land, in a way that’s sustainable and sympathetic to the local landscape. It will provide an elegant, living resource that will benefit the entire community and beyond rather than the pocket of a developer.”

 

Petition tops 1000 signatures

The petition to save Park Quadrant from an unwanted development has topped 1000 signatures.

A total of 1043 people have added their names to our call to halt the proposed development of 98 modern flats in the area, which is one of europe’s finest examples of architecture and town planning.

We hope that Glasgow City Council pays heed to the strength of feeling that exists over this issue and sees sense.

Many thanks to all those tho have signed the petition so far. Please tell your friends, neighbours, work colleagues and family members about our campaign and ask them to lend their support.

Together we can and will defeat this.

to add your name to the petition, click HERE

 

 

 

 

GLASGOW’S VERY OWN ‘DODGY DOSSIER’

So, how were Councillors on the Executive Committee of Glasgow City Council persuaded to sell the Park Quadrant site to Expresso for £6.3m?

A bit of background before explaining in detail.

  • In October 2014, City Property, a relatively unaccountable ‘arm’s length organisation’ marketed the site for residential development and 11 bids were received from developers.
  • These 11 where whittled down to four by a process which allegedly gave 60% weight to planning and design and 40% to the price offered. A problem immediately arises – how do you compare apples and oranges?
  • What information has been prised out of City Property by FoI requests is inconsistent, with responses to different but overlapping FoI requests giving different perecentages and an overall stubborn refusal to provide any further information about either how scoring criteria were applied or by whom.
  • Meanwhile, a ‘Design Panel’ had been set up, with representatives from the Council, the Glasgow Institute of Architects, Historic Scotland, the Landscape Institute, the Royal Town Planning Institute, Architecture and Design Scotland, and, crucially, “amenity groups’ such as the Architectural Heritage Society of Scotland, Friends of Glasgow West, the Glasgow Building Preservation Trust and Scottish Civic Trust.
  • The four bidders selected made presentations to this Design Panel last March and consensus was rapidly reached over which proposal was preferred in terms of design, and it was not Expresso’s.
  • However, the Panel was asked not to make any recommendation and panel members were given to expect a further presentation of amended designs which would take account of their detailed written observations to the prospective developers. The notes concerning Expresso’s design (http://pawh.org.uk/…/2…/03/GUDP_05032015_Report_Espresso.pdf) are worth quoting from: “Ideas shown for a flamboyantly profiled penthouse roof contributing to the area’s roofscape were to be welcomed, but were very much work-in-progress and would need further refinement if a schizophrenic relationship to the stone façade below was to be avoided.”
  • The Design Panel had obviously noticed that what has become known as the ‘wonky roof’ ever since the public consultation exercise did not sit well with the rest of the design of the front elevation.

Things then started to move rather quickly. Before the Design Panel could see the modified proposals they had expected, a report, the ‘dodgy dossier’ (http://pawh.org.uk/…/Glasgow-City-Council-Report-by-Executi…), went to the City Council’s Executive Committee on 28 May last year.

The report is by the Managing Director of City Property (Glasgow) LLP but was tabled by the Council’s Executive Director of Development and Regeneration Services. It is very cleverly written and, at paragraphs 3.3 to 3.5, states:

3.3 ” … The four parties then had the opportunity to take advantage of this feedback before presenting to a special sitting of the Glasgow Urban Design Panel (GUDP) on 5th March 2015 where verbal feedback was provided to each design team by panel members (made up of design specialists in their field and local amenity groups – in this case Friends of Glasgow West and the Glasgow Building Preservation Trust) followed by detailed written feedback shortly after this dedicated session of the GUDP.

3.4 Following the GUDP forum, which ensured independent design review of the shortlisted bids, the second stage closing date was set for the four parties to provide amended proposals on 23 April 2015.

3.5 The highest scored offer was received from Expresso Property Ltd. … ”

Bear in mind that the members of the Design Panel who had seen the first version of four proposals, and who included amenity group representatives and design specialists, never ever saw the four amended proposals and had not favoured Expresso’s design in the first place.

Any Councillor, without the benefit of having like us made repeated FoI requests, review requests after refusals and appealing to the Scottish Information Commissioner over a period of nearly six months, would quite reasonably have inferred that Expresso’s bid had been favoured by a Panel which had included representatives of amenity groups. Elected members can hardly be blamed for this wholly misleading implication in the report. Note particularly that the report doesn’t actually state that the Design Panel thought Expresso was the best, but simply fails to disclose that the Panel thought they were one of the two worst!

Who exactly did then prefer Expresso’s design over the stifled consensus of the Design Panel? And how and why? And why was it so important to give Councillors a misleading impression of the opinions of participants in this flawed process? Answers please, somebody …

By the way, the ‘wonky roof’ is still part of the design.

PAWH & CORRUPTION ALLEGATIONS

While the trees were being cut down, boards appeared on the railings around the Park Quadrant site and some alleged that corruption was behind what was going on. PAWH as an organisation would distance itself from such statements.

However, we have very little difficulty in understanding individuals who are driven to this conclusion for want of other logical explanation for what has taken place so far:

Expresso and the Council and City Property seem to have assumed that planning permission will be forthcoming even before the application has been submitted. Excessive tree removal is the most striking example but, six months ago, they applied to fell ALL the trees on the site. The reason given, that this was necessary for site investigation, just does not make sense as not one of four previous proposals which went as far as planning applications being lodged required any tree removal for site investigation. Capped boreholes and unfilled trial pits are still visible as evidence of these earlier investigations. What is so different about Expresso’s investigations that they require such extensive tree removal? It is very difficult to see how some of the trees removed would even facilitate any known method of site investigation.

The bidding and disposal processes for the site appear to have been undertaken with absolutely no transparency. There have been numerous FoI requests to City Property and the Council and, in each case, the responses have been provided on the 19th working day, late in the afternoon and, in most cases, have amounted to a refusal to provide the information requested. These have led to reviews which have been handled in the same manner and ultimately the Scottish Information Commissioner has had to extract the information for us. The scoring provided contradicts itself in different versions and Expresso, who came fourth equal in the first round of design scoring, went on to score significantly higher than the other bidders in the second round, despite not being the preferred bidder in the view of the ‘design panel’ (as confirmed by several design panel members). City Property refuse to reveal who made the final scoring decisions and on what basis. The Executive Committee were then misled last May into believing that the design panel had favoured Expresso’s design. Note the two highest scoring designs in round one were excluded for not offering enough money (despite claims that design was predominant) and then City Property let the final bidders alter their designs and financial offers during phase two of the process. Now, months later Expresso are proposing a completely different design to the one scored during the tendering process.

More recently, the Council’s Executive Committee agreed in February to reduce the sale price of the site by £500K due to a ‘reduction in the developable area’. Expresso claimed that they didn’t want to build on the footpath due to ‘concerns about its loss from the local community’. Then neighbours were told just before trees were felled that it was because of concern over the structural integrity of the exposed gable of Park Quadrant. One (or perhaps both) of these explanations must be wrong. Other possible reasons might be: a) There are windows on the existing Park Quadrant gable end which would need ‘bought out’ b) there is a buried high voltage power cable under the path c) building right up to the existing gable has serious structural challenges due to the small shallow foundations (mere ‘strip footings’) d) leaving a gap could save Expresso £1m or more in costs e) the ‘stopping up order’ on the footpath was confirmed all of 16 years ago and the Council may be concerned that the right of way may have re-established itself. So, the developer gets an 8% reduction in price for about 2% reduction in area and saves themselves a huge amount of money and hassle. The Executive Committee also agreed to let them buy out their ‘excess profit’ clause for only £400k. So each of the 98 flats only needs to sell for £4081 more than predicted for them to be laughing all the way to the bank. The minutes from this meeting suggest that nobody even questioned these staggeringly poor recommendations by DRS and they were approved by the Committee.

Had the Council been trying, they could hardly have done more to court allegations of impropriety!