Community against plan for 200 more Braes homes

A Falkirk Council meeting to hear both sides of the case to build 200 new homes on farmland in Reddingmuirhead became a plea to save a community from over-development.

By Kirsty Paterson
Thursday, 2nd May 2019, 11:18 am
Updated Thursday, 2nd May 2019, 11:20 am

More than 80 people attended a special hearing in Braes High School, where Falkirk councillors heard both arguments.

Developers Taylor Wimpey made their case for building on the greenbelt land, currently Middlerigg Farm, with regional director Richard Holland telling people they had selected the site because “it is a place people can be proud to live in”.

However, a string of residents came forward to say clearly that they do not want this development to go ahead.

Representatives from community councils and several individuals pleaded passionately with councillors to refuse permission, prompting applause from those gathered.

Their fears included over-crowding in schools and the health centre; increased traffic; an unsuitable narrow street that was to be used as an entry point; moving a children’s play park; lack of parking at Polmont Station; poor drainage; road safety worries; and building over mine shafts.

Those speaking included local doctor, David Herron, a GP at Meadowbank Health Centre who said there were already problems due to the “massive increase” in population.

“People are parking at the health centre to go to the station or sports centre which means people are struggling to park to come and see their doctor,” he said. “Also, we don’t have enough rooms and our waiting space isn’t big enough.”

And he warned that simply extending the centre would be difficult as they  will struggle to recruit clinical staff.

John Brown, of Reddingmuirhead and Wallacestone Community Council, said: “In recent years, 2000 houses have been built within a one-mile radius of Reddingmuirhead community centre.  This has placed a substantial strain on the surrounding area.”

He described the current bus service, the F25, as “a joke” and said that the developers’ suggestion of running a shuttle bus to Polmont Station at peak times was “of very little and limited appeal.”

Bob Moodie, speaking on behalf of Fairhaven Terrace residents, said: “Before  a spade has been put in the ground this is having an effect on the health of our residents. I have spoken to residents who have broken down in tears because of it.”

Fairhaven Terrace has been proposed as the main access route to the estate but residents say the narrowness of the street – just five and a half metres wide – and sub-standard footpath make it totally unsuitable.

He and many other residents were also concerned at the mine gases that would be released by building works.

Education adviser Richard Teed told the meeting that there was capacity at Wallacestone and Shieldhill Primary Schools,  but some residents were concerned that the development would be split between two catchment areas, saying friends, neighbours and possibly even siblings would end up at different schools.

Braes High School, however, would become over-capacity and there has been discussion with the developers about funding an extension being built.

Several speakers pointed out that the proposal, to build in a rural area, goes against Falkirk’s current Local Development Plan and a new version which will be adopted in July.

Aside from representatives of the development, there was only one speaker in favour of the development. Tracey Sinclair, daughter of the farm’s owners, said her parents wanted to retire and have been advised there is limited interest in selling it as a working farm.

Taylor Wimpey argued that Falkirk Council has a shortfall in housing supply and in such cases it is acceptable to build on greenbelt land.

Planning consultant Derek Scott agreed that the mines were “high risk” and this would be taken into account, while Mr Holland agreed that using Fairhaven Terrace as an entrance would prove challenging.

But he argued the development would bring much needed houses and employment to the area.

Councillors will make their decision at a meeting in June.