Park flats plan provokes international incident

GK_Voss_4The plan to build a block of modern flats in Park Quadrant has provoked an angry response from the German Consul General in Scotland.

Jens-Peter Voss (right) has written to Glasgow City Council, on behalf of the German Government, urging it to throw out an ‘inappropriate’ and ‘clumsy’ proposal to erect 98 flats at the A-listed area.

Neighbouring Park Circus houses the Goethe Institute, Germany’s cultural institute in Scotland, which occupies and manages a building owned by the Government in Berlin. It runs language courses for hundreds of students every year as well as lectures, exhibitions and other cultural functions.

Staff at the institute and at Alliance Francaise, a private higher education establishment teaching French which occupies the same building, are said to be deeply distressed by the building plan.

The council, which stands to net £6.2million from the sale of the land, has received more than 200 formal objections to the £40million proposed development by Leeds-based Expresso Property Ltd.

Herr Voss said the townhouses at two and three Park Circus were represented by the German Consulate under international law and that he fears their functions will be negatively affected by noise and air pollution from the building project.

He said the scale of the proposed six-storey development will intrude upon the privacy of students, visitors and staff at the Goethe Institute and that the proposal, which is contrary to the council’s own development plan, takes no account of the area’s historic or architectural character.

A report commissioned by Herr Voss on behalf of the institute said it benefits from a central location in one of the most prestigious conservation areas of Glasgow, chosen because it accords with the institute’s ‘noise sensitive’ activities.

The report states: “This peace is likely to be disrupted very significantly during construction, to the point where the Goethe Institute and the Alliance Francaise may not be able to fulfil their functions satisfactorily.

“Increased noise can also be expected from the occupants of the proposed 98 flats, and associated equipment, such as fans, heat pumps etc.

“The Goethe Institute will also suffer from a reduction in air quality resulting from the mature parkland being removed and replaced by a large underground car park ventilated towards Park Circus Lane, its garden ground and rear elevation.”

The report criticizes the proposed development’s “misguided attempt to create a ‘bel etage’ at roof level” and its “clumsy…poorly justified attempt to create two additional floors of accommodation where existing buildings have a relatively unobtrusive attic”.

A spokesman for the Park and Woodlands Heritage Trust (PAWH), which has collected a 2000-strong petition opposing the development, said: “Objections to this act of architectural vandalism have come from across the UK and now we have a foreign government entering the fray.

“Councillors need to realise the wider importance of what they’re doing. It’s not as simple as throwing up a block of flats and pocketing the cash.

“There are real and significant human, environmental and diplomatic considerations to this proposal and it’s clear that none of those have been thought through properly, if at all.”

Councillors are due to decide on the issue at a meeting of the planning committee next month. PAWH has submitted an alternative proposal for public gardens and a pavilion on the Park Quadrant site which, members claim, is more in keeping with local architecture that will provide a public benefit and enhance the council’s vision of the area as a Cultural Quarter.

The Charles Wilson Pavilion and Gardens, named after the 19th Century architect who designed the area, has the support of the local community council.

It is, according to members, ‘driven by a desire to reclaim for the community, outdoor space and facilities’ and will allow it ‘to exhibit pride in its surroundings while safeguarding green space and trees and preserving and refurbishing the original Victorian gardens’.

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