400 new homes planned for site of former Manuel Brickworks
Councillors have voted to approve outline plans to build 400 houses and develop 29,000 square metres of commercial premises on the site of the former Manuel brickworks in Whitecross
The proposals will also include some local shops and community facilities for the area.
Applicants, the CWC Group, told members of Falkirk Council's planning committee that they have evidence of "strong market interest" in the commercial elements of the proposal.
Around 10 per cent of the commercial site will be for business, while 90 per cent will be for storage and distribution.
The brownfield site has been earmarked for development for years but negotiations have proved difficult - this was the fourth time this application had been before committee since it was submitted in 2017.
The long-vacant site of the former brickworks is an ideal location in many ways: it is approved as a site for business in the latest local development plan and there have been no objections from local people to any of the plans.
The biggest stumbling point, however, has always been access to the area.
Council planners have argued that the steep, single-lane bridge over the railway line on Myrehead Road would not be suitable for a large number of vehicles.
The developers, however, are adamant that they have transport assessments that have "repeatedly demonstrated" that no improvement works are required.
Addressing the committee on behalf of the developers, planning consultant Kerri McGuire told councillors that the bridge had been approved by Falkirk Council in 2015, when work was done to electrify the rail line.
Falkirk Council also wanted better cycling and pedestrian routes between the site and the village itself - again, the developers say that what they are providing will be sufficient.
They also say that their plans will enhance Haining Woods and protect Almond Castle.
Some councillors, including local members John McCluckie and James Kerr, argued that the village is in desperate need of jobs and housing and the development is an opportunity that should not be turned down.
The third local member for the area, Gordon Hughes, was one of those who remained concerned that the narrow bridge would be unsuitable for a lot of traffic.
Councillors also looked for assurances that the commercial development would be delivered alongside the housing.
Ms McGuire said that this would be driven by market demand but CWC would accept a condition to deliver it in phases, so that the houses, retail and commercial elements would start at the same time.
Following the vote to approve, Councillor Gary Bouse remained anxious that the council could be left to foot the bill for any work that would be needed to upgrade the bridge in the future - something that could cost over £4 million, members heard.
He proposed adding a condition that would get at least a contribution from the developers, should it become apparent that work was needed to upgrade the bridge because of the extra traffic.
But the councillors who argued in favour of the development refused to back him and his amendment was also defeated.
Planning permission in principle was granted by seven votes to four with one abstention.
The information in this story came from a public notice published in this newspaper. You can read more public notices in our classified section today.