Glasgow Life urged to take part in hearing on controversial city centre flats plan

Glasgow Life has been urged to reconsider its decision not to be involved in talks over a controversial flats plan which could impact the future of a popular music venue.
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Scottish Ministers called in a council decision to approve Artisan Real Estate’s bid to build over 100 flats on a Merchant City car park, next to the City Halls and Old Fruitmarket.

They made the call as the plans “potentially raises issues of national significance regarding… development proposals within the vicinity of existing art venues”.

The move means a reporter, Elspeth Cook, appointed by the Scottish Government, is examining the case and will make a recommendation on the outcome.

A letter from a government official to Glasgow Life said its representation had been the “primary reason” for calling in the application.

The representation, sent by Lindsay McIntyre, of KSG Acoustics, on Glasgow’s Life’s behalf, stated that after a noise study, concerns remained that “the risk of justifiable complaints from future residents remains high”.

The letter to Glasgow Life, which runs the City Halls and Old Fruitmarket, said the representation was “of substantial importance”. Glasgow Life did not have a representative at a pre-examination meeting but Ms Cook has asked someone to attend a hearing on noise concerns.

She could summon Glasgow Life’s chief executive to the hearing, although it is hoped that “would not be necessary”.

A spokeswoman for Glasgow Life said the organisation believes its “participation in the planning process is over” and its submission “has been taken into account to our satisfaction”.

“We have written to the Planning and Environmental Appeals Division to clarify this,” she added.

The initial submission on behalf of Glasgow Life stated it was “vital” there was “sufficiently robust acoustic design”. Ms McIntryre told the council’s planning committee she had been “deeply concerned” about “the adverse effects” on the music venues “as a result of placing new noise sensitive dwellings within such close proximity”.

Ms Cook’s investigation will consider the ‘agent of change’ principle, which aims to protect cultural venues by putting the onus on developers of new properties to deal with any noise issues.

She said she would consider “whether the proposed design has adequately protected the noise sensitive elements of the development from the noise emitted by the established performance venue”.

In the letter to Glasgow Life, the official said its representation had proposed “noise-sensitive elements of the development would not be protected adequately from the noise generated by events at the Old Fruitmarket venue”.

It had added this “could cause difficulties for the ongoing use of your venue as a result of noise complaints from the proposed development”.

However, the Glasgow Life spokeswoman said it had not “raised an objection to the development proposals”. “As operators of the City Halls and Old Fruitmarket, we fully engaged over a long period in discussions on the proposed multi-use development at Candleriggs.

“As part of the original planning process, we provided detailed information in response to the developers’ proposals. This representation was registered appropriately by the council’s planning department and fully considered, and our submission has been taken into account to our satisfaction.”

Artisan’s plan for the Ingram Street car park, currently owned by one of the council’s arms-length firms City Property, includes 109 flats, a courtyard and private rooftop gardens.

There would be up to four ground floor units, suitable for leisure, office, retail or restaurant use.

Over 140 people objected to the development but council planners recommended the scheme could go ahead and, after a split decision, it was approved by the casting vote of planning chairman, Cllr Ken Andrew.

Ms McIntyre, an acoustics expert, is no longer representing Glasgow Life but could appear at the hearing with Merchant City and Trongate Community Council, which is opposing the development. The community council wanted to turn the land into a park.

A date for a hearing session is yet to be confirmed.

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