Winchburgh partnership centre row goes on

West Lothian Council needs to engage with the people of Winchburgh  to move forward in the row over a partnership  building for the growing village, according to locals.

By Stuart Sommerville, Local Democracy Reporting Service
Wednesday, 11th November 2020, 2:27 pm
Original plans for Winchburgh Village -Artist's impressions of how the new village of 3400 homes would look
Original plans for Winchburgh Village -Artist's impressions of how the new village of 3400 homes would look

Councillors and community representatives have voiced anger that plans originally scheduled to build a partnership centre, agreed more than a decade ago, have been shelved.

Alan Russell,  from the local community Development Trust, told a meeting of Broxburn , Uphall and Winchburgh Local Area Committee (LAC): “The village needs to be involved in any discussion about the partnership. The village needs to be brought on board here. This is all about community empowerment.”

“What has happened is an example of “community disempowerment”, he added.

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Head of planning, Craig McCorriston, presented a report to the LAC in which he outlined  “significant changes” since the initial agreements had been made.

He added that many of the other original partners  had changed plans.

Original proposals suggested council facilities, a library, health centre and a police station. Negotiations over a health centre  have stalled but Police Scotland has decided against opening a police station. Other facilities have been partly delivered such as the provision of a pharmacy  and community care , which continues to be met by facilities at Craigton Place.

“The council is not in control of the investment decisions of partners but it is clear that any public sector use of the land reserved for a partnership centre is likely to be driven by NHS Lothian as the biggest user. As a result, the delivery of any partnership activities on the site will be dependent on a commitment by NHS Lothian to invest in additional or replacement health care facilities,” said Mr McCorriston in his report.

He added: “The council will continue to review the options for provision through joint investment with partners but must also explore other potential options for delivering services in and around Winchburgh. ”

Councillor Janet Campbell, SNP group leader, told the meeting the development of health and social care was best served by the co-location of  facilities in partnership, and she asked how discussions with NHS  Lothian had progressed.

She said she had written confirmation from NHS Lothian  that it remains committed to providing a health centre  but added that a “strategic assessment” needed to be completed and a further meeting between NHS Lothian and the council had to take place.

“Has that meeting occurred?” she asked.

Mr McCorriston confirmed it had not. He added: “If NHS Lothian don’t currently have the money in their capital programme, I can understand that they have greater priorities with Covid.  We can keep speaking to them.”

Mr McCorriston maintained that the council had earmarked £900,000 for partnership facilities in Winchburgh, but Tory councillor Chris Horne  asked how much  of that was  council money and how much developer. He as told £700,000 of it comes from developer contributions.

Councillor Horne said the council had demonstrated a commitment to building partnership centres elsewhere in the county and added  it was “vastly disappointing” that similar arrangements hadn’t been reached for Winchburgh.

He added: “It seems to me that the council’s heart is not  into putting a partnership centre in Winchburgh,  rather  tinkering around the edges of what we can do with education facilities . That’s not acceptable, as has been clearly stated here by the community and backed up by the councillors.”

He called on the council to engage with the  community council and community development trust to provide “all day  and all year round” facilities.

Councillor  Diane Calder said: “Winchburgh is one of the most engaging communities I have had to privilege to represent. They have been hugely engaged with the developers.

“I would like  see the council stepping up to the plate and delivering what was mentioned in the masterplan and has been every year since.”

Mr McCorriston stressed that sports facilities at the two new high schools had been designed from day one to meet capacity for two 1320 pupil size schools. Given the projected rolls of each school will bee 660 there would be “significant excess of capacity” said Mr McCorriston. And he added: “There is a commitment to work with the community development trust to maximise benefit for the extended community in Winchburgh.”