Councillor hits out at '˜offensive' CALA letter

A Bishopbriggs councillor '¨has accused a housing '¨developer of 'breathtaking arrogance' and 'contempt' for local democracy.

Councillor Gary Pews (LibDem) hit out after a letter from Graham McNeil, Cala Homes’ Land Director (West) appeared in last week’s Herald.

Mr McNeil expressed the firm’s “disappointment” over East Dunbartonshire Council Planning Board’s decision to refuse permission for a 135-home development at 
Meadowburn in Bishopbriggs. CALA plans to appeal.

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Councillor Pews said: “Mr McNeil’s letter appeared to be the beginning of a charm offensive by CALA, but it has backfired and was certainly ‘offensive’ to those opposed to this development.

“I have no doubt that CALA is a responsible company, whose developments have enhanced many local communities.

“But this letter, and a comment by a spokesman in a previous Herald edition, that this was the ‘wrong determination’, as if that was a matter of fact, showed breathtaking arrogance and contempt for local democracy.

“The plans for this particular development were refused by councillors of all political parties and none, and for what the Planning Board considered were material and very justifiable reasons.

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“So it wasn’t the ‘wrong decision’ in the opinion of the councillors and neither was it the ‘wrong decision’ for the almost 600 objectors.

“That was an unprecedented level of response, almost as unprecedented as the length of Mr McNeil’s letter, with all the usual assertions of demand, the benefit to the local economy and promise of jobs.

“I fully recognise the site at Jellyhill is a brownfield one, and appears to be zoned for some level of development. But the sheer scale of the plans was a main concern, along with the plan to alleviate increased traffic by yet another set of traffic lights on the main Kirkintilloch Road.

“Whichever genius, either in CALA or in the council, thought that having more lights – which would be the NINTH set in a 1.3 mile stretch – would be an acceptable solution, can’t surely live in Bishopbriggs, which even as it stands is gridlocked for much of the day. Assuming CALA proceed with their stated intention to submit an appeal, I hope the Scottish Government’s Reporter will decide to hold a hearing in public, when all issues can be aired”.

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In response to Councillor Pews, Mr McNeil of CALA, said: “We have the utmost respect for the planning system and the democratic process and we are aware that the majority of proposals sit within established communities and the views of those residents need to be heard.

“That’s why we felt it important for CALA to voice the positive community benefits a development like this could bring, like creation of new jobs and significant capital investment. We were keen to ensure the mix of housing proposed appealed to the widest possible range of buyers to create a vibrant and sustainable community.

“We firmly believe in this site, and put forward a proposal that had the support 
of the Council’s planning service in response to a genuine need and demand for high quality affordable and private housing.”