MALADMINISTRATION COMPLAINT REJECTED BY GLASGOW CITY COUNCIL – CASE REFERRED TO OMBUDSMAN

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FOI REQUEST – WHAT INFORMATION?

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MORE FROM GO APE!
Council rejects SPP maladministration charge

Rejecting our recent letter of complaint the Executive Director of Corporate
Services at GCC replied:

‘I am satisfied that the Council sought appropriate advice, both internal
and external, on the application of the law of common good to the
development. I am also satisfied that the Council consulted appropriate
parties, including the National Trust for Scotland, at the relevant stages
of the consideration of the development. I would further confirm that the
Council’s policy for accounting for common good assets has been the subject
of detailed discussion with Audit Scotland and that the Council’s current
policy has been agreed by Audit Scotland. I cannot, therefore, agree with
the conclusions in your letter.’

We have now referred the matter to the Scottish Pubic Services Ombudsman
seeking a ruling on this dispute. In our submission we say:

‘Save Pollok Park, is seeking a ruling from SPSO that there has been
maladministration by Glasgow City Council in respect of the Go Ape proposal
in Pollok Park in respect of their failure to identify at a sufficiently
early stage that the asset is part of the common good and that Glasgow City
Council did not enter into negotiations with NTS at a sufficiently early
stage. We also ask that SPSO make recommendations to Glasgow City Council
that any future activities involving common good assets involve an early
identification of the common good interest and that the fact that the asset
is common good is taken into account at an early stage, and that Councillors
are made aware at an early stage that the use of common good assets are
restricted’.

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Council fails to respond adequately to FOI request

Under Freedom of Information laws, we requested ‘full disclosure of
correspondence and details of expenditure dedicated to (the Go Ape) project
…from the date of the adoption of the Parks & Open Spaces Strategic Best
Value Review and Implementation Plan in 2005 to the decision of Adventure
Forest Ltd in July 2009 to abandon the project’.

What is clear from their reply is that the phrase ‘Common Good’ does not
appear in any of the internal correspondence we received. Crucially, in
documents disclosed so far, the implications of privatising common good land
were not disclosed to Councillors by officers before they were asked to
approve the scheme in principle.

The papers supplied by the Council stop in October 2007; we are told that
the Council holds no relevant written records after this date! So, we are
asked to believe that in the subsequent period no correspondence exists
covering – for instance – the significant public opposition, multiple
public objections, planning committee briefing and decision, referral to
Scottish Government, subsequent discussion with NTS and Go Ape on the
relocation of the reception areas to Knowehead Lodge, renegotiations on the
‘free places’ offer and the decision to cancel the project in July 2009?

On the subject of how much the Council spent on this doomed project, they
say ‘ln relation to your request to provide full disclosure of expenditure
dedicated to this project, detailed on a monthly basis, we can advise that
Glasgow City Council does not hold the information that you have requested
in relation to the “Go Ape” proposal’.

SPP has now appealed this lack of disclosure to the Council, as required
under FOI. If we do not receive a satisfactory supplementary answer, we will
refer the case to the Scottish Information Commissioner who is already
considering complaints from others about Glasgow’s refusal to provide
information on Common Good assets.

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…and finally – more news about Go Ape

SPP’s success in repelling Go Ape in Pollok Park has reached a world-wide
audience.

We have been contacted by a group opposing similar developments in Sydney
where Go Ape wants to build on protected land described by the local council
as:

‘.. towering eucalyptus forest, weathered sandstone cliffs, sparkling creeks
and sheltered rainforest gullies, Bidjigal Reserve is an island of natural
habitat in the heart of the Hills area. 370 native plant species, over 140
native animals, myriads of birds, spectacular varieties of native orchids
and a diverse show of fungi makes a walk through Bidjigal Reserve an
interesting, relaxing and educational experience.’

Full details at Save Bidjigal Reserve

Closer to home, a public park near Southampton is under threat. The park is
described by the campaign group as having Sites of Scientific Interest and
as necessary green space for a rapidly expanding population. Sounds
familiar? The protesters would like those who support their fight to vote in
a poll organised by the local paper. If you would like to express an
opinion, read the article
‘Go Ape plans not popular with residents near Itchen
Valley’ in the Southern Daily Echo and vote in the poll.

Bill Fraser

Save Pollok Park

Tel: 0141-424 0447

Mob: 07775 832 461

Fax: 0141-626 4235

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