A PLANNING decision on a proposed £100million transformation of the former IBM site in Greenock has been postponed after the procedures followed by council officials were branded ‘incompetent’.
Inverclyde Planning Council yesterday voted 5-4 to carry out a visit to the Spango Valley site and demand a further briefing from council building officials about the candidacy of bus magnate businessmen Sandy and James Easdale , as reported by the Greenock Telegraph.
The decision came after a proposal by Councilman Councilor Jim McEleny to lift a council officer’s cap on new homes on the 270 to 420 site was rejected by Chief Legal Officer Jim Kerr.
A bid by developers for permission in principle for 450 homes has been deemed excessive by planning bosses because it exceeds the current limit for the entire Spango Valley site by 30 – only part of which is owned by the Easdale brothers.
Cllr McEleny was told his motion was ‘incompetent’ with the Local Development Plan (LDP) and would render the other part of the site unviable for development by its owners, who opposed the Easdales’ request.
Mr McEleny argued that capping the app at 270 homes would ‘kill it like a stone’, as Sandy Easdale has publicly said in the Telegraph last month that the site would remain “derelict” with such a reduction in the number of properties.
Councilor McEleny – who described the development proposal as ‘exciting’ – said: ‘The fact is that the process followed by council officers has been incompetent.
“They should have reviewed the application for 450 homes outside the LDP and recommended denial and proceeded to a public hearing.
“It should have been both options.”
Chief legal officer Mr Kerr said changing a planning condition from 270 to 420 homes would be a ‘significant departure’ from the LDP, adding: ‘I don’t think we can go back.
Councilor McEleny retorted: “‘I don’t think’ is not a sufficient legal ground.
“We should give this candidacy every chance of succeeding and not put an end to it.”
Mr Jamieson replied: ‘The economic viability of the site is not a material planning consideration.’
The Easdales – who worked with delivery partner Advance Construction – have filed masterplans for a major development of 450 new homes, business space, a pub/restaurant and a ‘park and ride’ facility in the former IBM Halt station.
In a statement released last month, the Easdales said: “We have worked positively with council officials since the bid was submitted and understood that the officials were supportive of our bid.
“Therefore, it was surprising to read in the local media that council officials were now recommending that there be a 40 per cent reduction in the number of houses – as that was something they had specifically told us not to wouldn’t happen.”
Councilor Innes Nelson offered a site visit and another briefing of the elected members by council officers.
Cllr Jim Clocherty proposed approval of the application as recommended by officials for 270 homes.
He said: “The frustration for me is that there is no master plan for the whole site.
“I know it’s not the applicant’s fault, but if we go for all the houses on offer, the other part of the site wouldn’t be viable, and that’s not LDP compliant.”
Organizer David Wilson asked if members approved the proposal with the recommendation of 270 homes, if the developers could appeal.
Mr Jamieson said: ‘It is within the gift of every applicant to appeal any decision of the planning council and it would be the Scottish Ministers who would consider the application.’
Councilors David Wilson, John Crowther, Jim McEleny, Robert Moran and Innes Nelson voted for a site visit and additional briefing before deciding on the application.
Councilors Jim Clocherty, Gerry Dorrian, Drew McKenzie and Ciano Rebecchi voted to approve the application with the recommendation of 270 new homes.