Cold shoulder is an ‘attack on democracy’

A SCOTTISH Government minister has been accused of snubbing East Dunbartonshire councillors over fears planning decisions are being over-ridden.

Politicians wanted to express concerns to local government minister Derek Mackay - but they have been re-buffed.

Councillors are worried that local democracy is being “eroded” because companies - especially mobile phone firms - are appealing, often successfully, to the Scottish Government after having applications knocked-back.

In response to a request from then development convener Billy Hendry, Mr Mackay refused to meet with the leaders of the Labour, LibDem, Conservative, SNP and Independent Alliance Groups, saying he was, “unable to meet at present” without other arrangements being made.

Bearsden North Councillor Ashay Ghai, who leads the LibDem group, said: “Councillors from all parties have become concerned at the erosion of local decision making with refused applications consistently winning appeals against the local interest.

“We had requested a meeting to discuss the matter but this has been brushed aside in a most dismissive fashion. If SNP ministers are not prepared to meet councillors - including the SNP group leader - to discuss local residents’ concerns on this subject then they are clearly not willing or able to listen to local views.”

Councillor Ghai has raised particular concerns about a proposed phone mast at the junction of Nithsdale Crescent and Abbotsford Road in Bearsden.

While the near 15 foot mast proposed by Vodaphone and O2 was rejected for a second time in December it is now understood that this is subject to an appeal to the Scottish Government.

Councillor Ghai said: “A phone mast has twice been proposed, considered and refused. This was done on the basis of evidence and planning grounds.

“I was pleased that local concerns were responded to in relation to proposals in a residential area and a stone’s throw away from Castlehill Primary.

“Having voted against the application I believe that any successful appeal would be riding over local opinion and an afront to local democracy.”

The Herald contacted Mr Mackay’s office but received no response.