LETTER: CALA director's open letter to Bishopbriggs community over Meadowburn housing plan

Sir, '“ In response to East Dunbartonshire Council's recent decision to refuse an application for residential development on a brownfield site at Jellyhill, Bishopbriggs '“ an area of land which was allocated by the council for housing in their own adopted Local Development Plan '“ CALA Homes (West) would wish to convey our disappointment with the decision.

The council have promoted the residential development of this site and on the back of this CALA Homes put forward a proposal that had the full support of the council’s planning service and all consultees in order to deliver much-needed affordable and private housing for the area.

Our proposal, submitted in January 2017, comprised 135 new build homes, of which 34 were to be affordable homes, which we understood to be a top priority for the council given the very high demand for affordable homes across East Dunbartonshire.

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In seeking to meet the needs of the widest possible range of buyers, CALA progressed with a versatile mix of new home styles with 16 unique property types covering apartments, townhouses and detached homes. Such a mix would have allowed first-time buyers (supported by the Scottish Government’s Help to Buy initiative), young families and downsizers to lay down roots in what we had hoped would become a vibrant and sustainable community. A record number of in-bound enquiries from potential purchasers received during the planning application phase gave us an indication that demand for these types of homes existed.

CALA Homes takes great pride in not just building high quality homes but creating communities where people want to live and that are sympathetic to existing neighbourhoods. The high number of objections from the community to our original proposals did not go unnoticed and were carefully considered throughout. We took great care to ensure that the planning authority were given as much time as was necessary to consider our proposals in detail. As a result of a detailed analysis of all valid objections, our original proposals were continually amended as we worked to address the issues raised throughout every stage of the process. Our careful and considered approach over a nine month period resulted in a robust recommendation for approval from the Planning Authority.

Against a backdrop of claims that the site would have been over-developed with too many homes, it is important to highlight that 42 per cent of the site was left undeveloped, and this was owed in part to CALA’s decision to progress with such a dynamic mix of homes. Our plans allowed for the retention of significant swathes of passive open space and active play space across the site. We also committed to pay various planning gain sums to augment and support existing local infrastructure and the delivery of off-site infrastructure upgrade works to ensure that any development impact on the existing community was mitigated.

An independent economic impact study suggests the local economy would have received a tremendous boost with approximately 20 per cent of residents’ gross income – equating to £1.2million (20 per cent) – would be spent locally, supporting approximately 20 gross retail jobs within the council area, not to mention the 88 construction jobs over the three year programme and a further 23 indirect and induced jobs thanks to £30million capital investment. The development, had it been supported, would also have generated some £282,000 in retained council tax which would be put back into the community.

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For CALA this was never about delivering as many homes as was physically possible. Instead, this was always about delivering a mix of homes that reflected local demand whilst creating opportunities to deliver enhanced biodiversity and habitat, an appropriate response to the canal edge, as well as building in provision for fully equipped children’s play facilities and further recreation space for adults.

Had our plans been supported this would have become one of the least developed brownfield sites in East Dunbartonshire in terms of the developable footprint.

The appeal route is the next step in the process and we will remain focused on that in the coming weeks. As an allocated brownfield site, we hope that with our track record in creating attractive, sustainable and sensitively designed new neighbourhoods CALA will eventually be permitted to deliver these much needed new homes. – Yours, etc.,

Graham McNeil

Land Director

CALA Homes (West)