Planning permissions, and the ownership of a small section of Bellahouston park

Earlier this week, I became aware of a planning application adjacent to Bellahouston park, a large park on the south-side of Glasgow. The application was to turn a disused building (formally restaurant) into a nursery. I tweeted about it quite extensively (thread), and thought I’d try and bring it together/summarise.

I’ve had very little experience with the planning system, so I was a bit perplexed to see included in its scope some land, adjacent to the property, that is not in its deeds. The applicant had simply incorporated this land, which they did not appear to own or have rights to, in the proposals.

It turns out this is something that is legal, and can and does happen: There’s apparently nothing stopping anybody applying for permission on any land they like.

The question of course is, why would you? You as the applicant go through a costly process only to give – if it is granted – the owner of the land some permission they didn’t have before. Unless you’ve already agreed some terms, you’re increasing the hand of the land owner you presumably want to agree something with. It’d surely be entirely counter-productive to do this.

I therefore got to trying to understand the only possible scenarios: whether it was a misjudgement by the applicant; whether they actually had an agreement in place; or if I had completely misunderstood something.

Just to briefly cover the application itself, before returning to terms of let and deeds: It is hugely flawed. As well as a creating a private car park on adjacent land that is public parkland, it also proposes creation of an access road to service the carpark, utilising a nearby predominantly pedestrian entrance area to the park. Whilst this entrance had some limited car usage (for an adjacent property), it would have been a major uptick in volume, as well as introducing all manner of traffic flow issues into the Palace of Art, and – of course – the park itself. Naturally I’ve objected to the proposal, and have encouraged others to do so too.

To return to the question of rights of ownership, reading the documents in the submission, it seemed that the applicant had a conversation with Glasgow Life. To quote:

The location of this proposed parking area was suggested by Glasgow Life, the owners of the site, at a meeting on site who considered that a car park in this location could best serve the proposed facility

Extract from applicants supporting statements on planning reference 20/00106/FUL

This seems odd. Glasgow Life are the arms-length, council-controlled charity that manages various facilities on the councils behalf. But it does not own the land. A quick look at the 2018-19 annual accounts, where on page 19 they even state this themselves:

All buildings operated by the charity are leased from Glasgow City Council for a peppercorn rental.

Culture and Sport Glasgow (trading as Glasgow Life), Report and Group Financial Statements, Year Ended 31 March 2019

A look at the ScotLIS registration (GLA195297) for the Palace of Art confirms this to show it’s a Tenancy interest. It’s interesting that the existing car park is not included in the public deeds, further evidence that it’s council/public land there too. It’s certainly not Glasgow Life’s.

So, the applicant misunderstood the organisation who owns the land. But I still couldn’t get my head around why they would even apply for this permission on this land, without some form of justification. If they didn’t currently own it, might they have some tacit understanding with somebody about it?

Given I am confident it is the council’s land to manage (on behalf of the residents of Glasgow), I wrote to my elected ward councillors (who also cover the location in question) via the excellent writetothem.com, in relation to this planning application’s inclusion of this land:

I would request your assistance in understanding whether this is: a) simply an overreach or misunderstanding on the part of the applicant (which should surely therefore be grounds for outright refusal); b) whether there has been a transfer of deeds or rights in relation to this part of the park not reflected in the public records, or c) some suggestion or agreement this may or is likely to occur post-application.

email to ward councillors

I received the following admirably prompt response, via two of the four councillors, quoting an officer at Development and Regeneration Services:

“1. The area of land to the south of the site between the existing Class 3 and The Palace Of Art has been included within the red line boundary of the planning application by the applicants agent. According to the submitted planning application the applicant has owner notified Glasgow Life, 38 Albion Street, G1 1LH as part owner of the site. Any queries with regards to any potential Transfer of Deeds would require to be directed to Glasgow Life. This information is not available to Development And Regeneration Services”

Development and Regeneration Services officer response

Concisely, that’s “The applicant included it for some reason. They’ve notified Glasgow Life. Talk to Glasgow Life about transfer of deeds. We don’t have any information.”

For reasons outlined above, I question this response. This is not Glasgow Life land. So, whilst I’m anxious I may rapidly be turning in to “the sort of person who writes long letters to councillors and newspapers“, I replied with the following clarification request:

Alas I have a further question raised by the response: Glasgow Life does not own the land or buildings. It is, itself, a tenant. They state this in their most recent Annual Report (page 19, Leases “All buildings operated by the charity are leased from Glasgow City Council for a peppercorn rental.”). A tenancy arrangement is also recorded on the Palace of Art ScotLIS ref. GLA195297.

It is surely therefore, for Glasgow City Council, on behalf of the people of Glasgow, to discuss and manage leases, lets and transfers of right of this part of Bellahouston Park, not Glasgow Life as the officer suggests.

I feel my query – whether any lease, let or transfer has been discussed or entered in to in relation to this plot of land – remains unanswered and will not be served by addressing it to Glasgow Life. I am a touch concerned the responsibility for said lets, leases or transfers is not clear. I would therefore appreciate your assistance in clarifying this point, or correcting my understanding if I have misunderstood some element.

Email to councillors

So, to wrap this all up, just now the situation is:

  • A private planning application was submitted, covering a part of public land that an applicant does not own.
  • That this application is deeply flawed in its assumptions of getting rights of way over public land, to the detriment of park users. But also in its analysis and proposal (very little detail about proposed construction methods, or impacts)
  • That creating a private car park on public land would (I suggest) fly entirely counter to a great many park, council and government planning policies relating to retention and enhancement of green spaces (eg. CDP6/IPG6, PAV65)
  • But additionally I was concerned the applicant has perhaps been given some indication that they may have, or get, some lease or let. Otherwise, why would they even apply for this permission?
  • So I wanted to understand if that had happened, or some suggestion given (by some part of the council) that it would or could happen.
  • So I wrote to councillors, who contacted council officers.
  • Council officers replied suggesting Glasgow Life should be contacted in relation to the deeds
  • When such matters are not the responsibility of Glasgow Life, as they are a tenant to the council.
  • So I have asked the councillors who responded (and may be regretting doing so) to find out who is ultimately responsible for this patch of land.

The simplest explanation is still “the applicant simply made a mistake”. It fits with the overall application being poorly considered or advised, and just getting the wrong end of the stick during a site visit with somebody.

But I still struggle to completely shake the prospect of some agreement or suggestion being given, or Glasgow Life/City Council operating under some premise I don’t understand. So I’d be grateful if somebody was able to explain if the terms of lease to an organisation like Glasgow Life could include, or grant the right, to allow them to let the land they for such purposes?

If so, how could we find that information out? My wife has submitted a FOI request to try and and chase down if there have been any council discussions around this. Other ideas/corrections welcome.

Will be updating this as I go. Also on twitter on this rather involved thread. Unpicking the thread was the reason for this post, but expect I’ll continue to update both.

Original twitter thread

2018 Press coverage

A lot happened at the tail end of last year with the 10th anniversary of parkrun in Scotland, and I realised it wasn’t reflected here.

Interviews are both fun and terrifying. Fun, because it’s great to see things you care about getting coverage; terrifying because that filter process your words go through when a journalist reports them always feel a bit… odd.

A couple of prominent articles linked below. It’s fun seeing your name in lights, but I’m delighted there’s strong recognition of the people who were instrumental in getting parkrun off the ground in Scotland, and have helped make it a success over the years.

BBC – Runners mark 10 years of Scottish parkrun

Runners mark 10 years of Scottish parkrun – a nice wee piece, and a great photograph. Great coverage too of Liz Corbett, who took over as Event Director at Pollok, but now does so much as Scotland regional ambassador to develop parkrun here in Scotland.

I was keen to get my running club, Bellahouston Road Runners, a bit of a plug. Ideas, particularly slightly risky ones like starting a weekly 5k, take time to gestate and you need confidence you’re not entirely mad. Club runs with club colleagues where I muttered away about a “Pollok Park Time Trial”, and them not telling me it was a silly idea, were hugely helpful.

In the space I have here, I’d also add a note about Fetcheveryone – in a pre-facebook day, this was perhaps the main running UK social network, and there was lots of interest, and volunteer offers, there too.

Evening Times – Glasgow’s parkrun founder reflects on 10 years of 5K phenomenon

Making the front page of the 28th December 2018 edition of the Evening Times came as a real surprise: we’d thought, at best, it’d be a bit of filler in the newspaper, but to see club members on our ‘subway run’ feature prominently on the front page was just brilliant.

It’s a great piece too: Glasgow’s parkrun founder reflects on 10 years of 5k phenomenon

I remember talking to Catriona Stewart on the phone during a break at work at the BBC: she was brilliantly supportive of my nerves. It was an absolute delight to read her most recent article, and her recent (November 2019) twitter thread about her experiences at Glasgow’s newest (7th!) edition, the amazing Queen’s parkrun, Glasgow

Seeing parkrun events developing and reaching people 11 years later just shows what an amazing setup a free, weekly, 5k timed run anybody can take part in is brilliant. Looking forward to the next few years.

Wikipedia experiences

In November 2019, I made an attempt to start a Wikipedia page on Glasgow Life, the Glasgow City Council arms-length charity that operates the cultural, sports, library and community facilities in the city.

I did this because I had spent a fair amount of time researching some aspects of decisions relating to investments and decisions in a nearby park and leisure facility, and wanted to put some of the information I’d gathered somewhere public, in the hope it’d be useful to others.

Alas I ran headfirst into the slightly frustrating part of Wikipedia of opaque and obtuse policies, and slightly overzealous editors. My initial attempt was swiftly deleted (“Unambiguous advertising”). You can read the detail, and my technical response to it, on my Wikipedia talk page.

Whilst I know that wikipedia editors face a barrage of challenges, from defacement to advertising, and much else, I really can’t help but feel the baby was being thrown out with the bathwater here.

So I made second attempt, but that was – I felt – watered down to the point of uselessness, with a continued vague suspicion on the part of the editor who’d taken a look that I simply must work for the organisation, rather than simply be a geekily enthusiastic and motivated Glasgow resident/taxpayer about ensuring wider dissemination of the organisation, and its decision making. It’s an important quango with an annual budget of around £120m

So my ‘full’ article is available on the Draft history here, but I suspect if I don’t get the piece published (it’s still rejected), it’ll probably get deleted. So I’ve added a page on my website here with a copy of the article. It’s accessible at: https://leyton.org/glasgow-life-summary/

I tweeted about the experience as it happened, which does a good job of relaying the frustration I felt with the process. The thread is below.

NB. I realised subsequently it wasn’t actually my first wikipedia article. That was actually a 2005 article on Glasgow Fair. My wikipedia user id is rleyton, and I’d of course welcome any motivated Wikipedia editors to help give me a hand bringing a fuller Glasgow Life article together.

Why the 9:30am start time for parkrun in Scotland?

I get asked a few questions quite regularly about parkrun in Scotland. One of the main ones is “Why the 9.30am start?“, and it certainly came up in many of the lovely chats I had with people about the course today. It’s also probably the main difference for parkrun in Scotland (and the island of Ireland) compared to the England and Wales.

So, there are two reasons for the 9.30am start time at Glasgow, now Pollok parkrun, which was the first parkrun in Scotland.

Firstly, well, Pollok park is a tree lined park. I was looking to do setup at about 7.30am – cycling from home and putting the signs up (always the reverse of route), before returning to collect my car with the kit (we eventually needed a few traffic cones for our finish area, and they’re heavy).

I went back through my emails to Chris Wright, the first employee of UKTT (now parkrun), who provided critical logistical and moral support in getting us, and many other events, off the ground. I wrote this on 10th October, 2008, as permissions came together and we needed to start planning the detail of the event:

We’re actually considering a later 9.30am start simply because the sun rises 40 minutes later here in the depths of December. Add the heavy tree cover in some parts of Pollok Park, as well as the gorgeous Glasgow weather, we’d been thinking it’d make sense to set a slightly later start time, at least in the winter months. But there’s an argument (for sheer simplicity) to stick to one time all year round.

Chris responded:

Re start time, there is something to be said for a regular start time throughout the year so I’d be tempted to make it 9.30 throughout the year, but it really depends how busy the park gets during summer at about 10.30. I’d say start with it at 9.30 and keep it under review.  If you later decide to say Winter 9:30 GMT, Summer 9:00 BST then that’s always an option.

It was always at the back of my mind how much darker it’d be for any time trial/parkrun that started further north, if another community ever wanted one. I’d not visited anywhere much further north in the winter at that point, but I had a rough idea after a few winters in Glasgow just how dark it can get/feel in the depths of December. I’d also less awareness of what other city parks were like at the time, so figured they’d be at least as dark and foreboding, and fiddly to setup, as Pollok’s North Wood.

Secondly, the proposed event was to take place in the North Wood of Pollok park, which is just behind the Burrell collection, so there was a perfect post-run coffee venue to hand. But it opened at 10am. I was very worried about how – or even if – the community/atmosphere of the events I’d enjoyed (Bushy park time trial (now Bushy parkrun), and Richmond park time trial (now Richmond parkrun)) would develop if we had a 9am start, with most runners finishing about 30 minutes before the cafe opened. They’d simply go home rather than hang about. So, we’d have no easy post-run natter spot, and the event wouldn’t flourish. We’d then struggle for volunteers. It’d be hard work.

So, a 9.30am start would fit perfectly with the venue schedule, and would help foster the community.

It’s just important – certainly after parkrun grew beyond the 10 UK events it had at the end of 2008 – to remind Scots travelling south so that they don’t miss the local parkrun. Tourists who visit Scotland over the summer, or people who catch national publicity, do sometimes arrive for an earlier start. Alas the difference in start times doesn’t get spotted (assuming it’s stated!).

But that’s it really. We stuck with it, and didn’t really ever consider revisiting it. Dark parks in winter, and the need for coffee and cake, that was important to build the community, and it all just fitted. It felt right, and works well with other park venue opening times around Scotland.

Pictures from the inaugural Scottish/Glasgow parkrun

As flickr seems to be about to kill off its free service (at least in a way that is useful to me), I figured it was time to move the pictures I have from the first Glasgow/Scottish parkrun, somewhere else

The full set of pictures are available via this shared album link to Google Photos. A selection of my favourites[1] below.

Pictures were taken by Paul Flood. Alas Paul was the first Scot to discover that taking pictures of fast moving runners, in a tree lined park, was a lot trickier than we expected. It was also very cold.

 

[1] – By favourite, I mean representative of the event[2] and my memories. I cringe a bit at me-in-the-orange-vest
[2] – A couple are from after the first event (The C3 car and Burrell picture). Let’s call it artistic license.

Revisiting the early history of Glasgow parkrun

 

I’ve been doing some work recently to gather my various notes and thoughts together about the start of parkrun in Glasgow and Scotland.

In the pre-social media days, I used to maintain this website as a full on blog. Alas it got to become a bit too onerous, and I took it offline around 2011. Whilst it’s back again in this form, I always knew I’d want to pull some of the old content through again at some point.

I posted them as a series of tweets, which are available as a Twitter moment here:

Picture by Paul Flood, used with permission.

Photo experiments

Some years ago, I did a lot of photography (even a couple of weddings). Over time, however, I gradually found the iPhone in my pocket took over by sheer convenience: the sheer bulk of my Digital SLR camera, plus lenses, meant it started gathering dust in my cupboard.

A few months back though I began thinking it was time to revisit this: Frances and I often found we wished we had “a decent camera” for one reason or another, but I was aware the specifications of my D-SLR were some years behind (resolution, not least; also features). Plus, well, bulk.

I finally decided to throw some of my gadget savings at something: A coin pot at Monzo, and savings from ensuring I bring lunch to work, rather than buying it at the canteen soon add up. So after a lot of research, I opted for the mirrorless format: all the flexibility of SLR, without the bulk: Just what I was after. I was swung by The Wirecutter review to opt for a Fujifilm X-A5, combining flexibility, loads of new features, decent press-and-forget buttons for those “capture the moment” needs.

Anyway, love it to bits, and have setup a photo album on Google Photos for various experiments and snaps I have taken (not necessarily with the new phone though), that I like. Some also feature in the header pictures on the site.

An initial selection and a few notes:

  • “Sunset” – On a flight to Bristol the sunset was stunning, so spent a good 20 minutes attempting to snap out of the window to capture it. There were better colours than ‘Sunset’ shows, but I struggled with the light settings and focus.
  • “Priddy Nine barrows”, and “Early morning” – On a run around Priddy (route is on Strava), I was fortunate to see some beautiful misty views that just took the breath away. I do love the feeling of achievement, fitness and progress from running, but to be honest it’s as much mornings and views like this too that make getting up early so worth it.
  • “Japanese figures” – first experiments with the camera playing with focus. We picked these guys up when we were in Japan in 2004. We’re currently pondering a repeat visit, perhaps in 2019.

Glasgow council “needs cyclists to help map best/worst city cycle routes”

My friend Maz pinged me a link earlier today to an Evening Times article  titled “Glasgow bike project wants cyclists to help map city routes”. Seems to be a re-run of a project the council ran last year, which I’d half-heartedly tried to take part in.

The main… challenge for my participation last year was they’ve partnered up with Naviki. Whilst I’m sure it’s a lovely and wonderful service run by wonderful people, alas it’s not an app/site I’d come across before this project: from a bit of a poke about seems to have a bit more traction on mainland Europe than here, where it’s pretty much all Strava in my experience.

The main technical problem was, as I subsequently tweeted, bulk uploads of GPX data isn’t possible, and they don’t seem to have a public API, which means the wonderful tapiriik service can’t hook up to it (either for backup purposes, or syncing). Indeed, there’s a github bug with all the details:

So I’d sort of uploaded some of my rides (all of which I log with a few presses of my watch; it’s not a faff to do this), but not all of them. I’m keen to help show the council there’s plenty of us out there cycling when they try things like this, but my time and patience is/was a bit limited.

So assuming I’d like to help Glasgow council again in 2018, my options to take part are:

  • Continue using my watch (requires a few button presses, and it all automatically syncs to Strava), and use my GPX export via tapiriik to upload each individual GPX file one at a time (==periodic faff)
  • Start up the Naviki app on my phone, as well as on my watch (==extra faff every day)
  • Have a bit of a moan and try and see if there’s anything other options, or more to it (==this hour-long drafting faff)

The larger question though is why are the council doing it this way anyway@BikeGobGlasgow pointed this out here, Strava already make a lot of data available, for free – see the Glasgow heatmap here (street level detail needs a login). But they also have (paid for) services available to bodies/organisations such as councils to access anonymised ride data.

I know one of the arguments might be that us Strava/Garmin users are already likely to be quite engaged with cycling, and are may be a bit self-selecting, which may not make it representative. Along the likes of ‘new protected cycle provision isn’t for people who already cycle, it’s for the people who aren’t yet comfortable doing so’.

However, I still rather doubt there’s a huge advantage using data sourced from (I fear) slightly patchy adoption of a clunky/special app involving various degrees of faff, over the richer, and more widely adopted Strava platform might offer – which would certainly average out to a good usage indicator.

The effort from the council links to a new(?) active/sustainable travel website too at  https://www.smartertravelgla.co.uk/ – promising stuff. On the running front, better information is available at https://peoplemakeglasgow.com/running-in-glasgow though, talking about running clubs, and parkrun (which first came to Scotland in Glasgow’s Pollok park, 10 years ago…)

Friends of Pollok

Back in June I attended a meeting of Friends of Pollok park. From my time establishing Pollok parkrun, it’s a group I’d always hoped would appear: It’s a stunning park, and in the climate of cuts and reduced expenditure, really would benefit from an advocacy group to work constructively with council, park managers, and nearby groups/organisations to support the park.

The council is helping support it, but the attendance at the June meeting was a bit… sparse. So I got home and registered a few domains (friendsofpollokpark.com), popped a basic Hugo site together, and got in touch with the owner of the current facebook group to get some of the content updated.

A month later, and a big uptick in the number of followers on the facebook group, the next meeting was standing room only. A fantastic result, and shows what social media can help achieve. Fingers crossed it’ll help get things progressing.

Slightly tricky part is the group is in a bit of an odd place just now: The council is trying to help the group to form (as an unincorporated group), so it can move forward under it’s own committee. Understandably attendees want to raise many of the issues with the park and see it progress, but it’s hard to see that happening without a committee making decisions and working with members.

Hopefully the next few weeks will see some progress and an enthusiastic park user or two taking on the fantastic challenge to form a much needed advocacy group in the community.