Reddingmuirhead planning row: 'Application must go to full council' after pair investigated by police
A controversial planning application that led to two Falkirk councillors being investigated by police should not return to the same planning committee for a new decision, a community councillor has said.
Danny Callaghan, convener of Reddingmuirhead and Wallacestone community council, says the decision on whether to allow Persimmon Homes to build 91 houses in Reddingmuirhead should have been made at a full meeting of Falkirk Council.
He said: “I feel that because of the previous application’s history it should not be going to the planning committee, it should be going to the full council – that’s my personal opinion.”
The application will be heard tomorrow (Tuesday) by Falkirk Council’s planning committee – more than three years after members first agreed they were ‘minded to grant’.
But it faces fresh objections from several local community councils.
The original approval was given, subject to agreement being reached with Persimmon about what kind of contribution would be made to things such as local education and health services – known as a Section 75 agreement.
Before that could happen, however, the decision became the subject of a police investigation.
In September 2018, three men – including Councillors James Kerr and John McLuckie – were charged following an investigation by Police Scotland’s economic crime and financial investigation unit into “planning concerns”.
At the time Mr McLuckie was depute convener of the council’s planning committee and Mr Kerr was a member of the planning committee.
In February 2020, the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service announced that there would be no criminal proceedings and said the case was no longer active.
Both councillors have been fully reinstated, with John McLuckie rejoining the Labour group while Councillor Kerr became the leader of the Conservative group and both returned to the planning committee and licensing board.
After taking legal advice, however, Falkirk Council felt it was best to refer the application back to the planning committee for a fresh decision to be made as according to council papers, the “minded to grant decision is tainted by apparent bias”.
They stress that their concern is the “appearance of bias rather than the view that there was any actual bias” and say it should also be emphasised that there is no suggestion of any actual wrongdoing by any party”.
Opponents of the proposal to develop the land – including all the local community councils – say it is a vast over-development.
They believe that health services, schools and local transport already cannot cope with the rapidly increased population of the Braes in recent years.
Reddingmuirhead & Wallacestone and Shieldhill & California community councils remain firmly against the plans, but this time round, objections have also been received from Maddiston Community Council, Brightons Community Council and Avonbridge & Standburn Community Council.
They are supporting the Braes Greenspace campaign, which says the area is desperately short of open space and is campaigning to keep the site accessible to everyone.
Community councillor Maria Montenaro said: “Shieldhill & California Community Council have requested a deputation which we hope will be granted on this occasion.”
Persimmon says the new homes would help to revitalise the communities of Shieldhill and California and that their plans include open space provision including a new play area.
They have restored their promise to contribute £330,000, over three years, to Falkirk Council to improve local bus services as well as £221,020.80 to Braes High School and £72,800 to open space provision.