CHILDCARE experts have called for clarity from Scotland's largest local authority after it set out plans that could lead to a ban on nurseries and young children's groups using public parks.
Members of the West Central Childcare Forum, which represents nurseries in the west end of Glasgow, say there is confusion over new rules being debated by the city council that appear to call time on organised groups using parks and green spaces in the city for recreational purposes.
Glasgow City Council is carrying out a consultation on rules governing its parks, which have already come under fire from dog walkers for proposing a ban on dogs that are not kept "close to heel".
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It has now emerged guidelines that would be issued to nurseries are also causing alarm.
In a section covering "commercial activities" the council proposes that "any person or organisation seeking to use any park or park building for outdoor educational provision, child care provision, nursery or kindergarten activities" would need to first obtain written permission from the executive director of Land and Environmental Services.
Gillian Robertson, chairwoman of the West Central Childcare Forum, said the move appeared to fly in the face of the council's own stated objective of helping children get fitter through outdoor activities.
She said: "We use the parks on a daily basis, but this appears to say that we would need some sort of written permission before we could take the children inside.
"It's totally impractical as a lot of the activities are weather-dependent and there simply is not time to get permission every time we want to go to the park.
"A lot of the parents are very upset by these suggestions and have been contacting us with their concerns. We would also question whether costs would be involved as where there's a permit to be issued, there's usually a charge attached."
Members of the public have been invited to give their views on the council's proposals, with the consultation running until February 14.
Among suggestions being put forward are plans to limit unlicensed gatherings to a maximum of 20 people, the introduction of new rules for fitness groups and a ban on smoking in playgrounds.
The rules would be enforced by park staff, with offenders possibly being banned from parks or fined. It is understood the council is keen to avoid a repeat of the violent scenes that broke out during a mass gathering in Kelvingrove Park in April 2011 on the day of the Royal Wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton.
However, one source at the local authority said there was concern the proposals put forward so far were "clumsy" and that more thought should have been given to their wording as there was no intention to ban nurseries or stop dog walkers from letting their pets off the leash.
A council spokesman said: "The park management rules are reviewed every 10 years. The main aim of this consultation is to simplify the rules and make it easier for visitors and the people of Glasgow to enjoy the city's parks.
"We want to ensure people can enjoy the parks without being caused any nuisance and that park users behave in a considerate, safe and responsible manner. We will continue to encourage the use of parks by nurseries bringing groups of children into the parks for health and educational gain.
"It is hoped as many interested parties as possible will make their views known by taking part in the consultation. This will allow us to better monitor the number of commercial groups using the parks and how their activities impact on other park users."
The proposals covering dogs sparked complaints after officials proposed the pets are kept on a lead no longer than six feet when in city parks. The regulations could also block people from walking more than three animals at a time.
The council insists this would not prevent people from playing fetch with their pets or letting dogs off the leash as long as they were still in control of the animal.
However, some dog owners voiced concern about the rules.