Jo has written to the Scottish Government Reporter following news that East Dunbartonshire Council has failed to reach a legal agreement on the Kilmardinny development.
In February this year, Labour and Tory Councillors voted to negotiate a legal agreement with developers CALA Management and Stewart Milne Holdings for the controversial Kilmardinny development to go ahead.
However, the Council announced this week that it has been unable to secure a legal agreement because the developers refused to accept the condition that the Allander sports centre should remain open until its replacement is available for use.
The Reporter Janet McNair will now impose a decision herself. Jo has written to the Reporter to listen to the community and not to rubber stamp the developers’ requests.
Commenting, Jo said:
“It is outrageous that even after the Council rolled over and agreed to give the developers almost everything they want, CALA and Stewart Milne are insisting on having complete control over the Allander, allowing them to close it long before any replacement is available for use.
“I am pleased that the Council has not entered into such an unfavourable deal with the developers, however it is now up to the Reporter to decide whether she will continue to side with private developers, or if she will listen to what local people have been saying for so long about the Kilmardinny development.
“I have written to the Reporter urging her to remember when she makes her decision that she is a public servant, and the public have made their views more than clear.”
The text of Jo’s letter to the Reporter appears below:
Janet M McNair
4 The Courtyard
Callendar Business Park
Planning Appeal PPA/200/242
Lower Kilmardinny/Westpark, Milngavie Road, Bearsden G61 3DH
On 4th February 2010, East Dunbartonshire Council voted to negotiate with developers CALA Management and Stewart Milne Holdings to reach a Section 75 legal agreement on the Lower Kilmardinny/Westpark development. You will be aware that the legal negotiations have since broken down without agreement. As the Member of Parliament for East Dunbartonshire, I urge you to consider the strongly held views of my constituents as you make your decision on the appeal.
You will no doubt be aware that local people in Milngavie and Bearsden reacted with outrage to your Notice of Intention, which stated that you were minded to allow the developers’ appeal. Local residents are almost unanimously opposed to the development, and were particularly frustrated by the fact that your view that the development is consistent with the Local Plan was based on a draft plan which was never approved by the Council. The ‘Key Policy Directions Report’ (KPDR) was a consultation document prepared as part of the process of producing a new Local Plan, however Councillors voted to reject it. The KPDR is substantially different from the actual Local Plan, however your Notice of Intention was based on the KPDR, and not the Local Plan as it actually stands. When I highlighted this fact to the First Minister, he recommended that a legal challenge could be made against any decision that is made based on such a legal flaw. I’m sure you will agree that in order to be legitimate, any decision now made on the appeal must be based upon the Local Plan, and not the KPDR.
I understand that East Dunbartonshire Council has also informed you of the obstacles it faced in the negotiations with the developers. The Council has rightly insisted that the Allander Leisure Centre should not be closed until its replacement is available for use. According to the Council, “…the remaining issue of ‘non-closure’ for the Allander Leisure Centre has not been resolved. In a letter to the Council’s Legal representatives, the developers indicated that they would not enter into an agreement unless they had sole discretion over access arrangements.” Maintaining access to the Allander is of huge importance to local people, and to be denied this access – which the Council has pledged to safeguard – would add insult to the injury of the unwanted Kilmardinny development.
In the case of the West of Scotland Football Club’s sports pitch, you rightly acknowledge that continuity of provision is essential. In paragraph 53 of your Appeal Notice of Intention, you conclude that:
“A condition that prevented any of the sports pitches on the appeal site from being developed until suitable replacement facilities were in place is essential.”
While West of Scotland Football Club has hundreds of regular users and is of huge value to our community, the Allander has around 3,600 regular users and is also extremely important to the health and wellbeing of local people. It has been in continuous use for over 30 years and welcomes around 1,000 users per day. It therefore stands to reason that continuity of provision is every bit as vital for the Allander as it is for West of Scotland FC.
I am sure you can appreciate that local people in Milngavie and Bearsden feel that the approval of the Kilmardinny development signals that the wishes of the developers are being given greater importance than their own views about the future of our area. Since your Appeal Notice of Intention was issued, the one matter on which East Dunbartonshire Council has insisted in standing firm is the need to keep the Allander Leisure Centre open until its replacement is ready to be used. If this demand is not met, it will surely be clear that the views of the community have been given no weight at all in the appeal process. As a public servant, I am sure you will agree that this would represent a failure of our planning system, the purpose of which is to serve the needs of the public at large.
Thank you for considering the views of the people of East Dunbartonshire as you make this important decision, and please do not hesitate to contact me should you require any further information.
Jo Swinson MP