‘The community must have a say’

editorial image

A campaign group is piling 
on the pressure to halt a 
controversial housing development at Bishopbriggs.

Within just two weeks, more than 1,100 people have signed an online petition calling for a moratorium on CALA’s 135-housing development at Jellyhill north of Meadowburn until a parliamentary process on a new planning bill is complete.

Save Bishopbriggs Canal Greenspace Group have also organised a public meeting at Meadowburn Primary School hall on Saturday, March 24 at 2pm to discuss the next step.

As well as local councillors and MSPs, renowned Scottish academic and historian Sir Tom Devine will be speaking at the meeting.

In spite of a record 569 objections from residents and being unanimously rejected by councillors at East Dunbartonshire Council, the development was given the go ahead on appeal by the Independent Reporter to the Scottish Government.

A new improved Planning Bill calling for increased community involvement in such developments is currently under review by the Scottish Parliament.

Local Green Party MSP Ross Greer MSP is tabling further amendments to this Bill to guarantee local communities an effective voice in all planning decisions.

He has described the appeal decision as “a major kick in the teeth for the local community.”

Strathkelvin and Bearsden MSP Rona Mackay is appealing to the Minister for Housing and Infrastructure, Kevin Stewart to get behind the community and block the development.

She said: “This decision by the planning reporter runs a coach and horses through local democracy – and it must be stopped.

“I am appealing directly to the Minister to back the Council and hundreds of local people who want to keep this land at Jellyhill protected.

“The over development of the site, the potential traffic issues, and the impact that this development will have on the setting of the Forth and Clyde Canal are huge concerns to me and local people.

“There are other effects as well that are so important – the ongoing destruction of our precious green belt and the implications this has for local wildlife.

“On the whole, the planning appeals system needs to be re-examined, particularly in light of this case where the views of the community were very apparent but ignored.”

East Dunbartonshire MP Jo Swinson told the campaign group she too has written to the Housing Minister, highlighting her concerns about the planning system itself, which she said has clearly not taken into account the community’s views, and she has questioned why there is no further appeals process for the community.

Ms Swinson added: “Communities feel disenfranchised by appeal decisions being made without local involvement.

“There is a democratic deficit and the system needs to be in favour of local decision-making, restoring power to elected members, councils and planning authorities”.

A spokesperson for the campaign group said the public meeting on March 24 has been widely supported.

She said: “Several of our MSPs and local Councillors will be attending and speaking about our campaign alongside the renowned historian Sir Tom Devine. We have also invited Kevin Stewart

“Above all, a local community will be heard; given a voice previously denied to them.

“People now feel that the appeal process is a travesty to transparency, natural justice and democracy.

“At the meeting we’ll discuss the action plans to achieve rights for all”,

However, CALA Homes has said it is confident the development will boost the local economy and is looking forward to working with the council on progressing a site that will bring with it many community benefits.

It has added that 36 affordable homes will form part of the plans and “a new village green with children’s playspace and associated play equipment”.

Graham McNeil, Land Director for CALA Homes (West) added there will also be a “linear green corridor adjacent to the canal-side in order to maintain, encourage and further promote wildlife and ecological diversity in and around the canal edge.”

Homes will range from one-bedroom apartments through to five-bedroom houses.