Campaigners against a controversial Erskine housing development secured a major victory this afternoon as proposals were thrown out by the council’s planning board.
Persimmon Homes lodged an application to build almost 250 homes across a 7.8 hectare site behind the Muthu Glasgow River Hotel – formerly known as the Erskine Bridge Hotel.
The blueprint had been recommended for approval by planning chiefs despite furious objections from Erskine and Inchinnan community councils, and an online petition against the development – created by student Ross Kerr – signed by almost 1,200 people.
But following a hearing at a meeting of the planning board this afternoon, the application fell at the final hurdle after council leader Iain Nicolson moved to refuse it, insisting it would severely damage the environment.
Councillor John McNaughton pushed for the plans to be given the go-ahead, but failed to attract any supporters.
After objectors Jim O’Neil, Liz Parsons and Andrew Horner spoke out against the proposals, Councillor Nicolson said the local authority should not accept an application which would destroy vital woodland.
Under the plans, an old forest would’ve been chopped, threatening a badger’s sett and bat roosts.
And campaigners highlighted how two Sites of Importance for Nature Conservation (SINCs) would’ve been seriously impacted.
Councillor Nicolson told the board: “I’m moving a refusal of this application. It does not require a lengthy rationale or reason behind it, other than what community groups have said.
“The key issue here is really about the SINCs.
“There was a charrette held in 2016 in Erskine and during that the public made it clear they expected SINCs to be retained.
“There’s the presence of red squirrels on this site and they are a protected species. It is clearly stated in the documents they are there and it is illegal to destroy a habitat.
“I don’t think anyone on this council would be happy to accept bulldozing woodland. This is a long-standing woodland area.
“For a number of reasons, but mainly for the protection of our environment, we have to say no to this.”
Ahead of the hearing, Scottish Forestry objected to the development and said more than half the site was native mixed woodland. Under the plan, an old nine-acre wood close to the hotel would’ve been felled.
Mr O’Neil, who spoke on behalf of residents and made a presentation, said: “We believe the report of handling is ignoring this is a green space. The community will lose the last two designated SINCs in Erskine. These are the heart and lungs of Erskine.
“We are all asked to take care of the environment, yet here we are giving serious consideration to dispense with 7.8 hectares of land and forestry.
“We are also concerned with the complete disregard for the safety of the public. We are left puzzled and concerned as to why a responsible developer would build homes on an area prone to flooding. Graphic photos and footage are available of this flooding.
“We are not salaried professionals with a vested interest in this commercial venture, we are the residents of Erskine and Inchinnan, and as such must place our faith in our elected representatives to take care of, and protect the interests of the electorate.
“Please consider this recommendation [to grant] is wrong.”
Kevin Murphy, who spoke as a representative for Persimmon at the hearing, insisted the flood plain would’ve been retained and not developed on, and claimed only one of the two SINCs would’ve been affected.
He also said the development would’ve provided “much-needed” new homes and there had been no objections to it from key agencies.