Action group fights threat to Glasgow heritage

Park Circus
Image courtesy of Paulina Brozek Designs

An action group has been formed to protect the heritage of one of Glasgow’s architectural gems.

A-listed Park Circus is part of a planned development created by distinguished architect Charles Wilson in the 1850s, with a layout similar to the New Town in Edinburgh. It is considered to be one the finest examples of town planning in Europe.

Park Quadrant was acquired by Glasgow City Council through a compulsory purchase order in 1981.

Plans to build 107 flats at the site in 2006 collapsed amid the worldwide financial crisis and a 2002 proposal was rejected following a public inquiry.

City Property Glasgow, the council’s arms-length property organisation, put Park Quadrant up for sale in October 2014. Their marketing brochure describes Park Circus as “probably the most iconic of Glasgow’s Victorian Cityscapes”.

The organisation received 11 bids which they narrowed down to a shortlist of four. All four shortlisted bids were invited to present their plans to planning officials before being reviewed by the Glasgow Urban Design Panel.

When the proposals, including the design, were resubmitted the bid from Leeds-based developer Expresso Property was chosen and subsequently approved by Glasgow City Council’s executive committee.

Park Circus road sign
Image courtesy of Paulina Brozek Designs

The action group is concerned that 11 bids became one without either the public or their elected representatives having any input.

Tom Johnstone, a spokesman for the Park and Woodlands Heritage Group, said: “We are outraged. The decision to sell Park Quadrant to Expresso Property who intend to build 111 flats was taken behind closed doors before members of the public had a chance to get involved.

“Park Circus is a conservation area of international importance. It’s ludicrous that Glasgow is celebrating its built heritage with a week-long Doors Open Day festival while at the same time rushing through a potentially unsuitable development in one of the most architecturally significant areas of the city.”

He added: “We are deeply concerned about the planning process which appears to have fundamental flaws and has resulted in just one proposal going before our elected representatives. We’ve used Freedom of Information legislation to try to understand the decision making process but our requests have been repeatedly blocked.

“It is a joke to say that a public consultation is being carried out when the decision has already been made.

“We are not saying that Park Quadrant should never be built on. We understand that it is a prime piece of land in a sought after location and we also understand that its redevelopment could benefit Glasgow by creating new jobs.

“We urge Glasgow City Council to go back to the drawing board and have a full and frank public debate about how the land should be used.

“Are new flats the answer? What about sport and recreation facilities, or a social enterprise project, that would generate jobs and promote community use?

“If there is unanimous agreement that new flats should be built on the land then care must be taken to ensure they are as high-quality architecture as the surrounding buildings and sympathetic to the unique characteristics of Charles Wilson’s renowned designs.

“Glasgow’s architecture attracts visitors from all over the world. Many of us take it for granted that we have designs by Charles Wilson, Charles Rennie Macintosh and Alexander ‘Greek’ Thomson on our doorstep.”

The company’s plans will be on display at St. Silas Church in Woodlands 13.00-20.00pm on Wednesday 16th September 2015.

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