The application was called before Falkirk Council’s Planning Committee by local councillor Gary Bouse who was concerned that the numbers of pupils attending Kinnaird Primary School is vastly exceeding the numbers that the original masterplan had forecast.
However, the committee heard that this was not because of too many houses – in fact, the masterplan had agreed to 1700 houses and flats being built and the total once the latest round of building is finished will be 1694.
Members also heard that CALA Homes had done everything asked of them under its Section 75 contract – the agreement with the council that the developer will make a contribution to fund the necessary infrastructure, such as new schools , roads, and playparks.
Planners told councillors that CALA Homes had actually given slightly more than it had been asked for as a contribution towards building Kinnaird Primary, although it will contribute a further £5109 in respect of the other pending planning applications.
Councillors had wanted to know what the difference between the forecast figures and the ‘real-life’ figures would have been.
They were advised that if the developer’s contribution had been based on ‘real life’ figures, they would have been liable for an additional contribution of nearly £75,000 for one site and nearly £150,000 for another site.
But officials advised councillors that CALA Homes had made all of its contributions in good faith and they could not have foreseen the actual numbers.
The planning application, for 18 houses and 21 flats along with associated landscaping, roads and drainage, is one of five that are pending and councilors were also assured that the level of traffic caused by these additional homes would have a minimal impact as they are a tiny part of the overall development.
However, some councillors said lessons would have to be learned about how to plan for such big developments, created over many years, to make sure that schools and roads could cope.
SNP councillor Laura Murtagh said: “I have the greatest of respect for CALA Homes and I thank them for their contribution, which is over what has been asked, but we need to recognise what’s been happening here.
“We know the schools have been having significant difficulties and while that’s not the developer’s fault, we need to learn the lessons as a planning authority about how we develop such sites over such a long period of time.
“We need to look at the real impact this has had on the community because our schools need to be able to cope with the numbers of pupils.”
Labour councillor Joan Coombes said: “The applicant has complied with published policy but I find myself questioning our published policy.
“We need to rewrite the policies so we don’t find ourselves picking up the tab for these developments.
Falkirk’s new Local Development Plan, which will be in place by 2020, will have more up-to-date guidance on development.
Councillor Murtagh said after the meeting: “We don’t know why the numbers of pupils at Kinnaird are so high – they are not just higher than our forecasts, they are also higher than the national average.
“It’s not reasonable to say the council could have planned for this.
“But we need more flexibility with masterplans that are created years in advance to respond to situations like this and I’ll certainly be trying to see what can be done. ”