Wednesday, 12 February 2014

Glasgow parks consultation

Glasgow City Council have proposed new rules for park management, and have set up a consultation on them.  Having looked over these, the rules are draconian, illiberal and probably unenforceable.  I’ve written a response to the consultation, which I include below the fold, and here’s some media attention, from Patrick Harvie in the Record; the Evening Times and STV.  There’s also a petition on

If you want to respond, you’ll need to do it quickly though, as the closing date of the consultation is this Friday 14th February.

Dear Sir/Madam,

I am responding to the document recently published on your website at regarding proposed changes to park management rules.  Having read through the document, I am concerned on several proposals and have listed these below.

1.1 “Park” means any land or premises which is owned, occupied or managed by the Council or is otherwise under the control of the Council and to which the public has access, whether on payment or not and which is used for the purposes of recreation, games, sports or amusements or as a public playground, gardens, open space or path network and all buildings, structures, works, appliances and servitudes, rights, powers and privileges connected therewith and without prejudice to the foregoing generality shall include the area known as and comprising George Square, Glasgow.

1.1 “Park” The definition of a ‘park’ seems overly broad to me, and specifically includes George Square.  It seems to me that this is mainly so as to be able to apply later provisions regarding ‘unauthorised’ gatherings and is inappropriate

1.4 “Unauthorised Gathering” means any gathering, meeting or assembly in the park comprising 20 or more persons which is organised by any individual, group, club or society or other organisation which has not had the prior written consent of the Director, howsoever organised and includes any kind of informal gathering advertised on Facebook, Twitter or any other social media operating from time to time on the Internet, mobile messaging service or any other electronic means.

1.4 “Unauthorised Gathering” By restricting groups to fewer than 20 people, you do realise that you’re banning a full-scale game of football, not to mention any club or society who might want to spend some time in the park?  It seems draconian to restrict freedom of association on public space in this fashion

1.5 “Anti-social Behaviour” means any conduct, action or course of conduct committed within the curtilage of any park or any building thereon that is likely to cause alarm or distress, nuisance or annoyance to any person using the park or any of its facilities.

1.5 “Anti-social Behaviour” Including ‘annoyance’ in this list is unacceptably restrictive.  This is too vague a term and far too overreaching.  It is also a curtailment of free speech too far.  C.f. the Reform Clause One campaign group

3.1 An Authorised Officer of the Council may refuse admission to any person, group or organisation to any park and his decision to do so shall be final. Unauthorised gatherings may be dispersed in terms of Rule 3.3.

3.1 This power seems too broad and vague, giving officials too much power.  There should be some form of appeal, or avenue to have such decisions overturned

3.2 The Director may make an order exempting any park, or any part of any park for a specified purpose and a specified time from the access rights which would otherwise be exercisable. This will include where the Director has reason to believe that the park or part of the park will be used by unauthorised gatherings and said gathering is likely to result in a breach of these Rules.

3.2 As above, this seems too vague and lacking in oversight.  The director must be accountable for their actions and there must be rules in place to prevent them from abusing their power to prevent legal gatherings

3.3 Where an unauthorised gathering congregates in any park or park building and, in the opinion of any Authorised Officer of the Council or any Police Officer in the course of their duties in the park, is likely to cause a breach of these Rules, any such Authorised Officer of the Council is empowered to take such action as is necessary to ensure the said gathering is dispersed and may include taking action under Section 14 of these Rules, and/or seeking assistance from the Police as required.

3.3 Parks are public land, maintained by the council in trust of the citizens of Glasgow.  Legal gatherings must not be restricted unless danger to life or limb is threatened.  I find this clause threatening to the freedom of (peaceful) assembly enshrined in the European Convention on Human Rights, and the Human Rights Act that implements that Convention in the UK

4.3 No one shall in any park:
(a) exercise any more than three dogs at any one time,

4.3 (a) This seems like an unwarranted restriction on the rights of people to own and exercise dogs.

5.4 No one shall go upon any ice formed over a body of water in any park unless a notice intimating that it is safe to do so is displayed at that location.

5.4 I assume that this restriction is to protect you from legal action in the event of hurt or death from people falling through the ice.  I would suggest that warning notices and disclaimers are more appropriate than more outright bans

10.1 No person shall in any park, except with the prior written consent of the Director, and after agreeing to comply with the Conditions of Let issued:
(a) organise or take part in any performance, event, ceremony, exhibition, assembly or procession or such activity,

10.1 (a) This seems like an unwarranted restriction.  Please provide justification for such a restriction.

(g) play or practice any organised sport,

10.1 (g) This seems fundamentally incompatible with one of the major reasons for the existence of parks, namely to facilitate exercise.  Sports or group games are fundamental to this

10.6 No person shall, except with the prior written consent of the Director, operate any radio or similar apparatus, play any musical instrument, or play any form of amplified music or speech.

10.6 This is unnecessarily draconian.  Music or a radio are often part of a picnic or barbeque and unless they are played unpleasantly loud, should not be a problem.  Also, the bagpipes are a common sound in Kelvingrove park around the time of the international championships.  This goes back to parks being public land.  Unless distress is being caused to others, no action should be taken.  Also, as currently written, this clause also includes radio as listened to on headphones

12.2 Commercial activities shall include, but are not limited to, the following:-
(a) professional dog walking service,
(b) fitness, personal or other training classes which make use of any part of the park or any building thereon,
(c) any person or organisation seeking to use any park or park building for outdoor educational provision, child care provision, nursery or kindergarten activities,
(d) guided walks for which payment is made by participants,
(e) performances, events, ceremonies, exhibitions, assemblies or processions or such activities where there is commercial gain.

12.2 I don’t think this is appropriate.  It may be appropriate to insist that such commercial services are properly insured and don’t interfere with other users of the park, but banning such activities is wrong

13.1 The Council reserves the right to levy a charge or charges for the use of any park or for any facilities or services provided in any park and the Council shall have the right to alter such charges without notice.

13.1 No, we already pay for parks through our council tax.  It is fundamentally wrong to charge for the user of any park maintained by the council in trust of the citizens of Glasgow

Since sending the above, other people have pointed out things that I missed in my reading.  I encourage all Glaswegians to read the document and write to Glasgow City Council using the details on the consultation page on their website.

Glasgow’s parks belong to its people.   The Council is only keeping those in trust for us and they need to be made aware of this.


Raj says:

Response from Judith on LJ:

Much of it is draconian, but I think the limit of three dogs is reasonable. I don’t think one person can reliably control more than three. That one is to protect other people.

The limit of 20 people would ban everything from a Sunday school picnic onwards!

Raj says:

My response to Judith’s LJ comment:

I walk in the park that my University is set in (Kelvingrove Park) quite regularly, and I do see (not many, but some) people with more than three dogs, and I’ve never seen a problem. Often these are professional dog walkers who keep their multiple dogs on a (long) lead anyway. Of course, one anecdote doesn’t make data, but I’d like to see their evidence before introducing this.

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