Council officers have been given the go-ahead to enter negotiations with Tilstone Glasgow Ltd, a company registered in Exeter, over a deal for an embankment alongside the motorway.
Concerned councillors approved the move but insisted any agreement is brought back to a committee to be signed off. They believe the proposal is inappropriate amid a climate emergency.
Cllr Jon Molyneux, Greens, said the project was the “epitome of a car-centric development”.
Tilstone secured planning permission in principle to redevelop parts of the industrial estate, as Queenslie Park, in 2018, but would require further approval for detailed proposals before work can begin.
Approved uses of the land include retail, pub and restaurant, car showroom, petrol station and hot food drive-thru.
Planning documents, submitted on behalf of the firm, stated: “At present Queenslie Park is not visible from the M8 and does not have the strong, cohesive identity that it should and could have.
“By creating a more open aspect at the north western corner of the site, it will be possible to increase the visibility of the park, which is very important in terms of putting it on the map with potential occupiers and visitors.”
A landscape strategy added the site is currently “strongly screened” and the existing woodland on the slope to the M8 would be “cleared to allow view to the new park”.
Cllr Molyneux said the developers are “not a local company”.
“They are a major property developer producing identikit car-centric developments around the country from what I’ve seen.
“The land is currently woodland, so it is covered with trees, and they want to remove all the woodland and replace it with topography and low-level planting and vegetation, because they believe the trees stop people seeing the development from the motorway.”
He called for a climate impact assessment to be completed before a deal is agreed.
“If we’re going to dispose of the land, I just want to be absolutely certain that the planning requirements are being met and that we are taking in the climate impacts fully.”
One planning condition requires the developer to produce a blue/green masterplan, which would provide a habitat for the water vole population, suitable surface water drainage and landscaping.
Cllr Molyneux and Labour councillor Jim Kavanagh asked to see the blue/green masterplan ahead of any agreement with Tilston.
Cllr Kavanagh added the woodland would be “more or less downgraded to a small bit of shrubbery” while “taking away mature trees so that someone can get a better view of the development”.
He said the trees would be cut down for “purely cosmetic reasons”.
A council officer said: “From our point of view, this is just an initial approach seeking authority to negotiate with that developer to fully understand what their proposals are.
“As far as I am concerned, green space will be protected by the planning requirements that are going to be in place for them.”
He said as there is “significant political interest”, the item would be brought back to the contracts and property committee.
Tilstone’s application stated there is “a lot that can be done to maximise the employment uses at Queenslie Park” and to broaden “the scope of complementary uses that will improve and increase the use of the site by tenants and residents alike”.