Our view post-Curves: planning policy in Glasgow needs reform

Last year we were dismayed to learn that the plans to develop the former Curves building at 127 Fergus Drive had been approved on appeal to the Planning Committee. Despite the significance of the development and the hundreds of objections received, the appeal was not heard by the full committee but a subgroup of only 3 members.

All along our position has been not that we are opposed to any development of the site, but that any proposed development should have the support of the community.

Given the large numbers of objections to these plans it is clear that they do not have community support. Why have local views been ignored? We believe that the current planning process is flawed and may work in favour of developers to the detriment of the local community who have to live with the result.

Our planning officer has written to the chief executive of Glasgow City Council to express our concerns. Here is the content of his letter:

Re SITE: 127 Fergus Drive Glasgow PROPOSAL: Erection of residential flats, (19 units), with associated car parking, landscaping, access and ancillary works 18/02622/FUL

I am writing on behalf of North Kelvin Community Council. We met on 7 January 2020 when we took the unanimous decision to write to you and express our concern about the Glasgow City Council planning process and decision to approve the planning application REF18/02622/FUL.

We believe there to be a failure in the planning approval process in relation to this application.

Firstly, as a Community Council we are not against any development of or on this site. And we had approached the developer (applicant) to offer a meeting to discuss the community’s views. But this offer was ignored.

We believe the development to be inappropriate – still too big, disproportionate, not in keeping with the conservation-area environment, and we have significant reservations about traffic flow impact on an already traffic-clogged community.

Nevertheless, we write to you primarily about the issues related to how the Council came to its decision to approve the development.

There were two original and related planning applications from the developer.

  1. Application to demolish the Curves Building; and
  2. Application for this residential development.

There was a massive community response submitted (including from the North Kelvin Community Council following a public meeting). These responses highlighted substantial concerns about both applications. Both applications were subsequently rejected by Council Planning Officers. The developer then appealed the demolition to the Scottish Government (DPEA) who approved the demolition on the proviso that there was a successful planning application for the development.

The developer then, ignoring and dismissing all of the community’s concerns and without any modifications or compromises, appealed the development application to the Glasgow City Council planning dept. Because this was an appeal this application was not heard by the full Planning Committee but only by a 3 Councillor subgroup. This limited significantly the scrutiny the planning committee would have provided. And it seems therefore to provide a loophole for developers.

Is it right that significant developments can be approved without the scrutiny and governance of the full Planning Committee? It does not seem like due process. So if developers submit an application that gets rejected out of hand (i.e. doesn’t reach the full Planning Committee), they can subsequently appeal and this appeal will get a lower-level scrutiny and review only by a subgroup of 3 Councillors. This is paradoxical: the more controversial applications should be heard and reviewed by the full Planning Committee.

We would appreciate if you could investigate this issue further and respond – before we explore other avenues of recourse.

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