Plans for 200 homes in Whitecross fall through after year of talks

Plans to build 200 houses in Whitecross have fallen through as the council and developer failed to reach an agreement after nearly a year of negotiations.

Thursday, 24th October 2019, 9:30 am
Developers were being asked for a contribution to help improve Myrehead Road (pictured) and its junction with the A803.

While councillors agreed they were “minded to grant the application” for land to the north of Crownerland Farm at a meeting held last November, the housebuilders Malcolm Whitecross Ltd balked at being asked for contributions towards the cost of upgrading the M9 junction 4 at Lathallan Roundabout.

Members of Falkirk Council’s planning committee heard on Wednesday that the cost of over £1 million for improvements on the roundabout would be shared with other developers.

Malcolm Whitecross had been asked to pay £286,000, although this would have to be updated.

They were also asked to pay “a proportionate contribution” towards improving Myrehead Road and its 
junction with the A803.

Other costs that they questioned included the amounts they were asked to pay towards extending schools and improving NHS services to cope with the extra numbers.

Extending Whitecross Primary and Graeme High to cope with the additional numbers would have cost the developers £6900 for every house built and £2900 per flat.

The developers also had other costs to cover such as a contribution to improve open space in the area and funding a cycle and footpath crossing at the Manuel Burn so residents could cross safely to the 
recreational ground on Vellore Road.

The developers were also making a quarter of the units affordable and fund improvements to the bus 
service.

Officers reported that while some of the discussions had gone well, funding the upgrade of the Lathallan Roundabout in particular had proved too big a gap to close and the applicant had said there was no point in further talks.

In total, the housebuilders were being asked for over £10,000 for each house built although that figure did not take into account the cost of improvements to Myrehead Road, which had not been agreed by the deadline.

Planning convener David Alexander asked how this section 75 figure compared with what other developers were expected to pay but he was told that each case was very different and depended on circumstances.

Falkirk Councillors agreed to reject the proposals although Conservative councillor David Grant said he was concerned that Falkirk “was not open for business” and that the amount being asked of the developers was “very substantial”.

His colleague, Councillor Lynn Munro said: “The contributions do seem excessive, especially given that 25 per cent of the houses will be affordable housing.

“If we continue to impose these kind of conditions there will be no development in the area because the sums being asked for are so onerous.”

SNP councillor Gary Bouse said he disagreed and section 75 agreements were vital to protect communities.

He said: “The whole idea is to protect areas like Whitecross and to get the infrastructure in place, such as the health service, roads and schools.

“If we don’t get this, the whole cost will fall on Falkirk Council and we’ll have to pay to put that structure in.

“I don’t think Falkirk Council should be subsidising developers.”

Provost Billy Buchanan said it was “regrettable” that the development would no longer be going ahead.

He said: “For ten years we have heard we have a site up there that’s going to be wonderful for regeneration and after all the work of our officers it hasn’t materialised but we have no alternative.”

Labour councillor Joan Coombes said: “We need to remember we are here to protect our residents.

“I appreciate the economic development but our main concern is them – not the profits of developers.”

Convener David Alexander said he did not think the figures being asked were in excess of what was being asked of other developers.

The councillors agreed unanimously to refuse the planning application.