Decision on controversial Larbert church plans to be made by Scottish Government

The application will be considered by the government after Falkirk Council has failed to make a decision on the plans

An artist's impression of the proposed Grace Church
An artist's impression of the proposed Grace Church

A controversial planning application to build a new church in Larbert will no longer be decided by Falkirk Council.

Grace Church’s application to build a church and community facilities on land to the north east of Unit 1 Kinnaird Village Centre, McIntyre Avenue, Larbert had been deferred until August so councillors could hear deputations in person.

At a meeting in June they were told any delay ran the risk of the decision being taken out of their hands – and this week, a statement from Grace Church Larbert’s Project Board has confirmed the church will appeal against non-determination of the application.

The statement said: “It is now over a year since we first submitted our planning application for an exciting new church and community facility at the heart of the Inches and Kinnaird area.

“The £2 million development, constructed at no cost to the community or public purse, will transform an ugly derelict site into a vibrant local hub which will include multi-purpose rooms, a multi-purpose hall as well as café and crèche facilities.

“We welcome the strong recommendation from Falkirk Council’s planners to approve our application, and their decisive rejection of all objections which have been raised.

“However, our application was submitted in June 2019, and should have been determined within eight weeks.

“We have already agreed to extend that deadline on six separate occasions.

“Most recently, Falkirk Council has declined to consider our application at two meetings of the planning committee, setting aside the procedures which they themselves approved.

“This most recent delay means that over one year has elapsed since we originally submitted our application and there is still no clear timetable or process in place to reach a determination.

“We are therefore left with no choice and have reluctantly taken the decision to appeal against non-determination by the Council.

“All views expressed for and against the planning application, having already been considered by planners, will now be considered by a Reporter appointed by the Scottish Ministers.

“We remain saddened that a local campaigner has continued to spread misinformation about our church and incited others to object to our plans.

“We are simply a Christian church proclaiming good news of a God who wants us all to know His love, joy and peace through Jesus Christ.

“We hope and pray for a positive outcome to our planning application enabling us to build our new church and provide local people with an attractive facility where everyone – without exception – will be made welcome.”

The individual referred to – Kinnaird resident Gary Wilson – set up a Facebook page to oppose the church’s plans, although it has since become a community resource page for people living in Kinnaird and the wider Larbert area.

He was one of seven objectors who had asked to speak at the latest planning meeting.

Mr Wilson said: “Whilst disappointing that Grace Church have sought to take advantage of a delay caused by the Covid-19 outbreak to bypass due process and frustrate our community’s opportunity to be heard, it is sadly unsurprising.

“By proceeding in this manner, it is reasonable to conclude that Grace Church anticipated the committee’s decision would be to reject this dangerous development, which a great many of us are concerned risks our and our children’s safety on a daily basis.

“Had they been confident that planning permission would be granted, no doubt they would have awaited that outcome in August.

“Instead, they have referred it to a Reporter who seems unlikely to be in a position to make a decision until some time after the committee would have done.

“I am keen not to focus solely on the negative that is this unwanted development though. Many positives have been born out of it and there is a real sense of community spirit in the area now.

“We are in the process of formally constituting a Residents’ Association or Community Council, and have undertaken surveys of residents to determine the type of development we do want.

“We have begun working with a number of parties on this subject and look forward to creating something in the centre of Kinnaird that is far more aligned with our needs and values and above all safe.”

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