A CONCERNED resident has spoken out over fears a Glasgow East End community will be shut out of a local green space, after it was leased to a grassroots football team.
Glasgow City Council approved a 25-year lease of the football pitch, which occupies most of Budhill Park, to Glasgow Girls & Women FC in 2017.
Previously, the club had been informally allowed to use the pitch as their home ground, which at the time was let to Glasgow Life.
Resident Ben Weir became aware of the arrangement only after contacting the council when he noticed new containers were being installed as the lease commenced in 2019.
In the past few weeks, the 27-year-old spotted fencing being erected around the pitch, sparking concerns that locals would be prevented from accessing it.
READ MORE: Plea for public to stop fly-tipping on valuable land beside Glasgow nursery
The club, which previously expressed plans to expand in the rest of the park, insisted it is only leasing the pitch and welcomes the community to use the space through a number of projects.
Mr Weir said: “The biggest problem is 80% [of the park] being restricted and effectively privatized and there’s been no public announcement, there’s been no signs or anything.
“I just know because I’ve done my homework, I think most people wouldn’t know.
“I feel like the council has made a decision without taking into account what the public wants.”
Mr Weir, who has lived in the area for almost 20 years, recalled using the green space as a child: “I remember as a kid you would go and sit in the park after school until your mum got home.
“Just two weeks ago, during the bank holiday and the sunny weather, there were kids playing football, there were people sitting on the grass.
“It’s weird knowing that it will be much smaller.
“We talk about wanting to get kids outside, wanting to get people green space to congregate, but there’s not a park like it in all this area without having to get a bus or a train.”
Mr Weir said he respected the club needed grounds to play and train, however, he believed the park would not be suited for a long-term lease and associated facilities.
“You know that the team play there and you respect that, that’s not an inconvenience,” he said.
“But from what I’ve seen, they want to take over the park and build their own facilities.
“You can say you are a community club but, at the end of the day, you’re going to benefit the football team first and there’s no getting around that.
“At the beginning of all this I think there should have been signs, there should have been a consultation.”
READMORE: Glasgow Green to be ‘mainly closed’ for over three weeks for TRNSMT festival
The Shettleston resident added the council’s Neighbourhoods, Regeneration and Sustainability department had informed him that, while community groups can request to use the pitch, access to the public would now be restricted.
Glasgow Girls & Women FC had been given permission to make the pitch their home ground in 2012 and was granted planning permission to build changing rooms in 2013.
The football club has since built infrastructure including changing rooms, a canteen, office and kit room.
It started fencing off the pitch last month and has plans to install a 4G synthetic turf pitch.
A spokesperson for the club said: “Only the football pitch is leased to us and we are responsible for it.
“Our lease sets we must fence it and install 4G [syntetic turf] in a timeframe.
“The pitch was in a terrible condition previously and we have been maintaining it – cleaned from glass, dog dirt, and needles for young females to play football without risk of harm.
“As per our lease, we have done this with consultation with community groups and we are now working together on initiatives like school sports days, after-school care and a community garden.
“Girls and women’s football has got more popular [in the last few years in lockdown] and it is our duty to provide a safe environment to play.
“The fence allows this and all relevant permissions are in place.
“The pitch was never part of the public park but was a hireable facility from Glasgow Life.”
A proposed lease document from Glasgow City Council available online cites the club’s aspiration to develop “an additional area of adjacent land” and a “desire” to lease a building to a senior citizens’ hub at a later stage.
Glasgow City Council confirmed, while the club previously had permission to use the pitch and erect facilities, members of the public were also able to access it.
A spokesperson for the council said: “Glasgow Girls FC initially had permission to use the pitch at Budhill Park over a three-year period through an agreement with Glasgow Life and invested significantly in the facilities at park over that time.
“In 2017 the council was satisfied the club was in a position to take on a long-term, formal lease of the pitch, which would help secure their identity as a club and bring in further investment.
“It was reported to committee in 2017 that the club aimed to develop the site further and the lease for the ground subsequently commenced in 2019.
“We understand work at the pitch was delayed by the Covid pandemic but it is the club’s intention for the enhanced facility to become available for community groups, schools and other football clubs.”