A COMMUNITY is taking legal action after plans for Green Belt housing in Glasgow’s last remaining village were given the go-ahead in breach of the city council’s own rules.
Carmunnock Community Council has called on the chief executive of Glasgow City Council to investigate the “farcical” decision, warning it has ramifications for sensitive conservation areas across Scotland.
It has now launched a crowd-funded attempt to potentially fight the decision made by three city councillors through a judicial review in the Court of Session. It raised nearly £2000 in the space of 24 hours.
The council says that the fund will be used for this and any other future case threatening the green belt in the village.
Glasgow City Council said that the only way it can be opposed now is through a judicial review.
The row surrounds plans by East Kilbride-based Zoom Developments to build four new five-bedroom homes on green belt land in Carmunnock, despite proposals for the site being previously rejected by the council.
Last year, the council said that it was not considered to be in accordance with their development plan for the area and would result in the loss of Green Belt “with a significant adverse impact on the landscape character of Carmunnock village”.
Its environmental policy states that “it is important that the council continues to exercise a strong presumption against development that would adversely affect the function and integrity of the remaining green belt.”
There is particular concern that due to an “administrative error” the council’s planning review committee met two weeks early to overturn the original rejection of the plan.
The homes are to be built on “iconic” green space called locally as The Horse Field in Busby Road, which was used for equestrian grazing.
The community council also raised concerns that there was no proper notice for the meeting – and that there is now no obvious way to contest the allowing of the appeal except to go through the courts.
Community council chairman chairman, John Lawless, said: “In my experience it is the worst example of a council planning meeting I have ever seen and we demand the chief executive finds out what happened and why? Carmunnock is the last remaining village within the Glasgow City Council boundary and has a Green Belt to protect it.
“That is being destroyed with this decision. This decision has ramifications for every Green Belt in Scotland. It’s a Green Belt giveaway.”
Video: The community council produced its own commentary on the green belt homes approval discussions
The council created its own video on the discussions and urged people to watch it to “fully understand the lack of process, apparent lack of knowledge of the issues and consistent ignoring of advice from council officials” that was evident.
Lying five miles south of Glasgow city centre and surrounded by green belt land, the old part of Carmunnock was declared a conservation area in 1970 and has its own heritage trail.
Since the project surfaced last year, there have been a total of 107 objections from residents including a petition with 63 signatures were presented to the council over concerns.
The West of Scotland Archaeology Service (WoSAS) warned that the development fell within an area of some sensitivity in an area that included recorded sites and finds from the prehistoric and medieval periods.
“It is a field that is in the middle of the village. It is a natural course for wildlife and trees will have to be taken down. We are a semi-rural community and we see that being eroded,” said councillor Derek Scott.
“The way the meeting was run, I have never seen anything like it. And we were absolutely flabberghasted when they decided to uphold the appeal.
“It is our understanding the process doesn’t allow for a further appeal.
“What we have done is reviewed the meeting in detail. If there was one benefit to the pandemic, the videos are available to see of the meeting. Otherwise the meeting might have happened an nobody would have noticed what went on.
“The people that originally objected were supposed to get two weeks notice and they didn’t do that.
“We want the chief executive to investigate the planning review committee, how they reached their decision and in the meantime put on hold the approval of the application.
“But if that doesn’t happen, we have started a legal fund, to take this to the Court of Session if need be. It is very expensive to contest and we would need a legal counsel to do that.
SNP Drumhapel and Anniesland councillor Anne McTaggart, a former MSP, who chaired the meeting said she wanted to uphold the appeal believing the development “enhances the most beautiful conservation area”. She said she took into consideration the families in the area who would be able to remain because of the new homes.
“I know it is not a planning matter, but having family for childcare and stuff is hugely important especially today,” she said.
The community council said there was no evidence that a lack of development was impacting local families or that it would impact child care.
Asked by repeatedly by council officials that councillors needed to provide clear valid planning reasons to override a strong presumption against development in the Green Belt.
A council official advised the councillors the plans do not meet any of the official exceptions against Green Belt development in the latest 2017 review.
Scottish Labour councillor for Anniesland Elaine McDougall, who supported the project said: “Would it be that the economic material consideration outweighs the policy? I don’t know.”
Ms McTaggart said there was justification for the houses and said: “If you could put planning terminology that you can put to that, I would be obliged.”
The council official replied:”It is basically for the committee to basically provide us with the justification for an exception to Green Belt policy.”
The discussion infuriated the community council which stated: “It is not the council official’s role to invent valid planning reasons for the committee.”
Ms McTaggart added: “I think on this committee we have the scope to be pragmatic and flexible and that’s what I am going to be today.”
SNP councillor for Hillhead Ken Andrew, who said that the decision should be put off till the 21st, said no case had been made that mitigated the loss of Green Belt and registered his ‘dissent’ to the decision.
“It is quite straightforward that we should be refusing this because we want to protect our Green Belt. In this day and age of climate emergency, we should be doing as much as we can to protect green belt land.”
A Glasgow City Council spokesman said: “In terms of the notice given, there was indeed a notice sent stating that the meeting was to take place on September 21, but this was changed to September 7 for timetabling reasons.
“The community council would not have had the opportunity to speak at the meeting as the (Planning Local Review) Committee members had determined that they had sufficient information before them to determine the review without hearing from the applicant or any of the other interested parties.”
Agents for Zoom which called for the appeal told the council: “It is obvious that the proposal represents the development of a gap site which can be achieved in a manner that both reflects and compliments the existing pattern of built development within Busby Road.
“It is obvious to any party visiting the site that it is surrounded by development already on three sides, contains no trees of note, and is of poor agricultural value having been used to only graze ponies for many years. Its contribution as open space or to the landscape character of the area is to be fair negligible.
“It is incredibly difficult to justify why this site is not considered developable in principle. Its continued designation and protection as Green Belt is on balance unjustified.”