Saga of Gilston development in Polmont rolls on

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Proposals for a massive development which could transform land in Polmont were back in the spotlight this week.

Two decades after a planning application was first submitted for the site to the east of Gilston Farm, near Gilston Crescent, councillors and members of the public learned more about the latest project at a pre-determination hearing held in St Margaret’s Primary School on Tuesday evening.

Hansteen Land Limited is seeking planning permission in principle for 500 homes, a hotel and hostels, restaurant, food retail outlets and office/light industry space. There is also the possibility of a doctor/dentist surgery in the plans.

But critics of the proposal argue it will have a detrimental impact on schools and health services, while the infrastructure will be unable to cope, particularly causing parking issues around Polmont railway station.

There are also concerns that the application does not have enough information on flood risk.

As part of the planning process, members of the applicant’s design team discussed the proposal with both Polmont and Maddiston Community Councils.

A public event was also held last May when residents were invited to view the plans and discuss the proposal with those involved. 
Around 170 attended and at that time the feedback was: concerns over local infrastructure; querying the demand for the proposed commercial and retail premises; scale of the proposed housing and loss of greenspace; and a need to incorporate recreational facilities for children.

The proposal is “significantly” contrary to the current Falkirk Development Plan due to the scale of housing involved and as such, council consideration and a pre-determination hearing are required.

In a detailed report, council planners revealed that colleagues in the roads department believed a roundabout would be required where the road from the existing entrance roundabout on the A803 near Lathallan meets the new ‘High Street’ which should be large enough to accommodate HGV and bus traffic.

They stated: “It would generally be acceptable to re-route and close off Nicolton Road.”

However, this has brought an objection from members of Maddiston and Rumford Community Council, who said: “This is an important through route and is widely used during the commuting times. Any restrictions on available roads is neither sensible or appropriate.”

Falkirk Council has received 152 public responses to the planning application: seven in support, five neutral and 140 objections.

It has also received an objection from Polmont Community Council. This week its convener Rosemary Taylor said: “We are extremely concerned about this proposal since it will put further pressure on our key services.

“The health centre has three different practices but they are serving the whole Braes area. Any new housing increases the workload on the doctors and all associated disciplines.

“The schools are almost at full capacity and while more portable classrooms would accommodate learning areas, they would have to sacrifice playgrounds.

“Increased traffic and lack of parking at the station will only exacerbate problems we now face. Already cars are parked from Brightons Main Street to Marchmont Avenue and all streets in between.”

The Scottish Environmental Protection Agency (SEPA) has objected to the application on the grounds of lack of information on flood risk, saying the submitted assessment is not sufficiently detailed.

The applicants have also been advised by Falkirk Community Trust’s museum services that if the project is given the go-ahead archaeological work to the east of Nicolton Road may need to be carried out as Bronze Age cist burials were previously discovered there in the 1970’s.

In an economic statement submitted to the council Hansteen has stated that it has marketed the site commercially since its acquisition in 2006. Since then there have only been eight commercial enquiries, seven of which having a negative outcome and one, a family pub restaurant side-lined until further progress made on the wider development.

The developers say that the only large scale users interested in the site are house builders.

Speaking prior to Tuesday’s meeting a spokesperson for Hansteen said: “We are aware of local concerns over the proposed development. The council has confirmed that there is sufficient education capacity. The council’s own planning guidance indicates that there is sufficient health care capacity and the NHS has no objections. A traffic assessment has been submitted and is being reviewed.

“Representatives of the company will be outlining its strategy at this evening’s meeting and will be on hand to answer questions from those who might be concerned.”

*What’s your views? Call 01324 690234 or email editorial@falkirkherald.co.uk.