MSPs support opponents to Merchant City flats plan

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Two Glasgow MSPs have supported residents’ calls for a Merchant City car park to be retained for community use, rather than used for a controversial flats plan next to a popular music venue.

Kaukab Stewart, SNP, and Patrick Harvie, Greens, have submitted letters to a Scottish Government reporter who is set to hold a hearing over the planning bid. Scottish Ministers called in the council’s decision to approve Artisan Real Estate’s application to build 109 homes on the car park next to the City Halls and Old Fruitmarket.

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

The reporter, Elspeth Cook, is set to visit the Old Fruitmarket on Thursday before holding an online hearing on Wednesday, September 13. She is expected to make a recommendation on the outcome of the case. Ms Cook said the hearing would focus on a “list of proposed conditions provided by the council”, and she confirmed the site visit will not include a live music performance.

Artisan intends to build 109 flats, with a courtyard and private rooftop gardens, on the Ingram Street car park, which is currently owned by one of the council’s arms-length firms, City Property. 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 it could go ahead and, following a split decision, the scheme was approved by the casting vote of planning chairman, Cllr Ken Andrew.

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A representation to the reporter from Mr Harvie stated residents “consider the existing site an attractive, locally unique place contributing to public health and well-being, whose attributes and potential will be destroyed by the proposed development”.

The objections indicate the land has “vast potential for community use”, he added, and they “further criticised the level of detail on proposed noise mitigation measures”. A submission from Kaukab Stewart MSP, SNP, added: “The deficiency of green spaces and children’s play areas is strongly felt by the community, and is evidenced by the hundreds of representations and submissions made thus far.”

Issues under consideration by the reporter include national planning policies, 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, and the Merchant City Regeneration Handbook. The handbook is a council document which sets out “future ambitions” for the area, and pledges to “enhance public space and access to green spaces”.

A spokesman for Merchant City and Trongate Community Council said it remains “hopeful that our five year fight to have Merchant City’s first park built on this site will be successful and that this proposal will be rejected by the Scottish Government”.

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“We and many others have lodged a number of submissions to the Scottish Government’s reporter,” he added. “These include the need to adhere to latest national planning guidelines and avoid the risk of closures of the adjacent City Halls and Old Fruitmarket music venues because of potential noise complaints from new apartment owners.”

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

A government official, in a letter to Glasgow Life, had said the representation had been the “primary reason” for calling in the application. But Glasgow Life has now withdrawn its representation, and said it was “unaware that the information provided to it by KSG would be recognised formally within the planning process as we had not made an objection to the development”.

It added: “While Glasgow Life did raise concerns about the potential development, we are of the opinion that these concerns had been registered appropriately with the planning authority and that these concerns had been taken into account by it in reaching its decision.”

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KSG has now submitted a representation on behalf of the community council, which reiterates “risk of justifiable complaint from future residents that may result in action in accordance with the law governing nuisance will be significant”.

Porter Planning, the applicant’s agent, said the project would create “a high quality sustainable residential development which includes a new and improved public space, which is child friendly, and will serve the community”. It added the ‘agent of change’ principle’s purpose is to “ensure that the introduction of the new development does not require the existing venue to make any changes”.

The firm said planning conditions will “ensure that the detailed design of the proposed development will achieve the identified performance requirements”. Porter Planning also said the handbook does “not suggest the existing car park is to be a City Square”. “Nevertheless, the applicant would be delighted to engage with appropriate stakeholders on temporary pop-up events within the proposed courtyard that could contribute to the project.”

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