South Lanarkshire Council acted unlawfully when it removed Hazelhead Play Park. They should have applied for planning permission to make this material change to land. When they acted without consultation, they also ignored their own planning guidance which states that communities should be involved in the management of their open spaces. These are the conclusions of the Environmental Rights Centre for Scotland (https://www.ercs.scot) who have looked into the Hazelhead Park case. We have now submitted a formal complaint to SLC raising these points, as follows:
Stage one complaint
Removal of Hazelhead play park equipment
I wish to make a stage one complaint as per the Council’s complaints procedure regarding the above matter.
Around the end of May 2021, the play park equipment was removed from Hazelhead play park by South Lanarkshire Council employees. There was no consultation with the local community and planning permission was not first obtained by the Council prior to the removal.
At the date of this complaint, the Council has not confirmed that it plans to restore the equipment to the play park. The play park has been left without play park equipment.
Our complaint has two grounds. First, the Council should have obtained planning permission prior to the removal and its failure to do so was unlawful. Second, the removal of the play park without any public consultation was contrary to Council policy.
We are seeking to have the play park equipment reinstated as soon as possible as a result of this complaint.
1. Ground of complaint 1 – failure to obtain prior planning permission
As you will be aware, Section 28(1) of the Town and Country Planning (Scotland) Act 1997 (‘the 1997 Act’) provides that planning permission is required for the carrying out of any development of land. The meaning of the term ‘development’ is defined in Section 26(1) of the 1997 Act and includes, “the making of any material change in the use of any buildings or other land”.
Our view is that the removal of the play park equipment amounted to an act which resulted in a material change in the use of the land on which the play park is located. By removing the play park equipment, the Council changed the use of the land from one of a play park to one of vacant land which can no longer be described as a play park.
As such, the removal of the play park constituted a development within the meaning of Section 26(1) and planning permission should have been obtained by the Council prior to the removal of the play park as per Section 28(1). My view is that the Council’s failure to obtain planning permission before removing the play park was unlawful.
2. Ground of complaint 2 – removal of play park contrary to Council policy
South Lanarkshire Council has produced supplementary guidance to assist the implementation of the South Lanarkshire Local Development Plan. The 2014 document, ‘Supplementary Guidance 8: Green Network and Greenspace’ contains guidance on the mechanisms and actions to deliver high quality greenspaces and is directly relevant to this complaint.
Table 4.1 of Supplementary Guidance 8 contains a list of ‘greenspace design principles’ which are intended to guide how developments can be designed to enhance and deliver the local green network. One of the principles referred to at page 26 is ‘community involvement in management’.
As stated above, the removal of the play park equipment constituted a development and there was no public consultation prior to that development taking place. Our view is that the removal of the play park equipment was contrary to Supplementary Guidance 8, because it failed to take account of the greenspace design principle of community involvement in management. There was no community involvement in the removal of the play park equipment, the equipment was removed by the Council without any involvement from the community.