GOVERNMENT ministers have intervened in a high-profile campaign against development plans by Scotland's largest local authority, even demanding the council's recorded views on protesters.

In an unusual move, the Scottish Government has written to Glasgow City Council insisting it is kept abreast on plans to build homes on disused pitches in Kelvinside, in the city's west end.

Government sources have described the intervention as a seldom-used course of action. However, council insiders have sought to play down the move, claiming it falls short of saying it will take the decision out of the authority's hands.

It comes as the campaign to save the green space, which has already won the support of comedian Frankie Boyle, acclaimed artist Alasdair Gray, singer Eddi Reader and many other public figures, continues with hundreds of children and their parents attending readings at the Meadow.

Former Children's Laureate Julia Donaldson and actor Tam Dean Burn yesterday performed readings from Donaldson's hugely successful Gruffalo series.

Questions have also been raised about the timing of the planning application by Irish-based developer New City Vision to build 90 townhouses, flats and mews on the former playing fields site. The bid was submitted almost a year ago but is not expected to go to committee until August. New City Vision claims the delay is to ensure the application is watertight in the face of the "a well-oiled campaign".

The Government's letter to the council states: "This direction has been made in the light of the proposal's potential impact on the loss of valued open/green space and possible conflict with development plan policies.

"This direction does not commit the Scottish Ministers to calling in any such application, but it does reserve their right to intervene."

The Government adds that the council will have to send ministers all applications, environmental reports, local policies, reasons for approving, copies of all objections, representations and petitions through to "comments on the consultees' observations and on representations received, together with a statement explaining how [it] has taken these into account".

A Government source added: "The letter's letting the city council know we're looking at this in more depth ... This isn't the type of letter we issue frequently at all."

The Kelvin Meadow, which has lain derelict since the 1970s, has been the subject of a battle with the city council for several years.

The council, which still owns the land and will profit from its sale, has said the site is not a meadow or "greenfield" site but three derelict red blaes pitches.

Ms Donaldson said: "This is such a great inner-city open space, a real 'secret garden' which serves as an open-air community centre and a place where kids can climb trees and discover nature. It's really heartening that the Scottish Government is taking local concerns seriously."

Douglas Peacock, chairman of the North Kelvin Meadow Campaign, said: "What the council view as a 'local campaign' to save land used 'on an informal basis by neighbouring residents' has been recognised by government as an issue of national importance.

"We are optimistic that this marks a turning point for the campaign to save the Meadow."

A council spokesman said: "The application for the Clouston Street development continues to go through the planning process. The council continues to have discussions with the applicant regarding detailed information necessary to take this application before the planning applications committee."