Outcry as greenspace housing development gets go ahead on appeal subject to financial handover.
MSPs and councillors have hit out at the Scottish Government’s intention to give the thumbs-up to controversial plans for a housing development on canal greenspace in Bishopbriggs, East Dunbartonshire.
The Scottish Government intends to allow the appeal after particular financial contributions from CALA Homes (West) to East Dunbartonshire council are established.
East Dunbartonshire Council unanimously rejected the CALA Homes (West) Planning Application in September 2017, following a record number of objections to the development from constituents.
On 9 February 2018 the Scottish Government Planning and Environmental Appeals Division (DPEA) issued a Notice of Intention to uphold CALA Homes (West) appeal, thereby granting it permission to build 135 units on 7 hectares of canal greenspace in East Dunbartonshire. The housing development would introduce 4-storey flats and 3-storey houses to the area and exacerbate existing traffic problems and already-stretched secondary schooling.
If no financial agreement is made between CALA and East Dunbartonshire Council the Scottish Government would use its powers to allow the development to go ahead regardless.
MSPs, Councillors and East Dunbartonshire residents are angry that the reporter has disregarded opposition to the development, including 569 letters of objection and numerous reports and letters highlighting the developers’ failings.
Ross Greer MSP said: “This is a major kick in the teeth for the local community. A record-breaking 569 people took time to object to the application and many more have voiced their concerns, particularly about the density of housing and the impact on traffic. Every single councillor backed the objections, but the reporter has decided to impose a decision against the wishes of the people of Bishopbriggs.
“This shows perfectly how the planning system is rigged in favour of developers who can put in an application and make use of the second chance appeal system if the council say no. The local community don’t get this second chance, and I urge my fellow MSPs and the Scottish Government to join me in backing the current proposals to address this through Equal Right of Appeal amendments to the Planning Bill.”
East Dunbartonshire Councillor Billy Hendry said: “This is another development that will harm East Dunbartonshire greenspace. Yet again, the Scottish Government is over-ruling local planning decisions, making a mockery of democracy. The local community, led by the Save Bishopbriggs Canal Greenspace campaign group, and the Local Authority were united in their opposition to this development. Infuriatingly the Scottish Government has chosen to ignore the views of the local community and the Planning Board, with their single-minded agenda to build more houses regardless of implications to existing communities.
“The Local Authority wanted the appeal to be subject to a Public Inquiry in order to consider all potential impacts but, astonishingly, this was halted due to CALA’s influence over the Scottish Government. CALA deemed a Public Inquiry ‘unnecessary’ for the Reporter to make his decision.”
A spokeswoman for Save Bishopbriggs Canal Greenspace campaign group said: “We’re very angry that the Scottish Government intends to allow the appeal after additional financial contributions to the Local Authority are confirmed. We hear time and time again that ‘money talks’. This is unacceptable. We simply cannot allow our democratic society to be bullied by wealthy developers.
“The reporter doesn’t appear to have taken all matters into consideration. The Local Authority clearly stated it does not want the development. There were 569 letters of objection and a unanimous refusal by East Dunbartonshire Council. Flaws in CALA’s plans were highlighted and The Coal Authority repeatedly stated that the developer should not ignore the fact that the area intended for housing is ‘high risk’ – yet all of the issues were disregarded by the reporter.
“It raises the question of what’s the point of having democracy and spending taxpayers’ money on planning policies and procedures when they’ll be overridden by the Scottish Government? Planning democracy in Scotland is wrong and the issues need to be addressed swiftly before we lose more greenspace to over-development and negatively impact our established communities. Public trust needs to be improved and decisions should be kept local. We’re pleased to have the support of the community, local councillors and several MSPs in this ongoing battle to save community greenspace and biodiversity from over-development.”
The campaign group has the support of several MSPs including Maurice Golden MSP who said: “It has been opposed by both the local planning board and local residents yet, despite that, we once again see local democracy ignored. I have consistently spoken out against greenbelt development, and I share the community’s dismay at losing a precious green space. The Scottish Conservatives have called for local authorities to be given the power to place a moratorium on greenbelt development, which would protect them from appeals to central government.”
Rona Mackay MSP has also voiced her concerns on twitter.
The financial contributions being sought under Section 75 are with regards to secondary schooling and traffic problems.