Developer loses last bid to build homes on Erskine beauty spot

A riverbank wildlife haven has been saved for future generations after a last gasp court bid by the landowner.

Developer Persimmon wanted to turn much of the 19-acre spot in Erskine into a 246-home housing estate, including axing virgin woodland.

Residents were rejoicing this week after fighting the plan for more than three years.

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And the leader of Renfrewshire Council launched a scathing attack, branding the goings-on as a blatant attempt to “overthrow local democracy.”

Scotland’s highest civil court, the Court of Session, tossed out the case raised by Cosmopolitan Hotels, which wanted to sell the land to Persimmon.

In his 14-page opinion, Lord Tyre ruled in favour of Renfrewshire Council and dismissed Cosmopolitan’s argument that local planning decisions had been flawed.

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Erskine Community Council revealed yesterday that members thought the original planning application was laughable – because some of the site is on a River Clyde floodplain.

A spokesman said: “We were absolutely convinced they were joking, especially when you consider that this would also involve the destruction of valued woodland and wildlife habitats.

“Little did we realise that we would have to fight continuously to compete with the huge time and resources at the disposal of a major developer.

“We are delighted to now realise that the dedicated amateurs of Erskine and Inchinnan Community Councils along with local support have finally won, and that this stretch of mature woodland and wildlife habitat has been secured for generations to come.”

He added: “We felt, and still feel, that developers must first use existing brownfield areas to supply much needed housing and stop taking the easy option of decimating our greenfield assets. We offer our sincere thanks to all concerned and to those who assisted and made their voices heard.”

We need a green future - Renfrewshire Council Leader Iain Nicolson
We need a green future – Renfrewshire Council Leader Iain Nicolson

The end of the bitter battle has also been welcomed by Renfrewshire Council Leader Iain Nicolson.

He said: “They have lost every stage of the process to date.

“We are extremely pleased that the latest attempt to overthrow local democracy with regards to our rights to determine our own planning policies was seen for what it was . . . a desperate roll of the dice.

“The appeal was based on the idea that anyone who isn’t happy with the way a planning decision goes could just go to court to try and get it overturned. This destroys local accountability and decision making and the judge roundly rejected that idea.

“Right from hearing of the plans we held public meetings to hear the views of the local community on the proposals and to provide information on how to respond.

“I moved that the planning board hold a hearing to allow community groups to be heard and rightly the board refused consent. This was appealed to the Scottish Government and we submitted our grounds for objection, the reporter backed the Council’s position.

“We then had the appeal to the Court of Session in an attempt to overturn local democracy and the Local Development Plan to try and force us to reverse our decisions.

“We have been vindicated in our decisions.

“There is another level of appeal and if it happens we will continue to fight as it’s an important issue regarding local decision making. We need to protect important sites that save our ecological habitats for future generations.”

The other level of appeal is to the Inner Court of Session and Cllr Nicolson has urged Persimmon and Cosmopolitan now to “give it a rest and accept the decision.

This is what the watery haven would have become if building was allowed
This is what the watery haven would have become if building was allowed
(Image: Persimmon)

Persimmon said it would not be commenting on the devastating blow to their plans.

Renfrew-based Cosmopolitan runs The Normandy Hotel and was the former owner of the old Erskine Bridge Hotel.

It sold the hotel, now renamed Mutha Glasgow River, but retained some of the land around it.

Now its hoped new plans can be made by Renfrewshire Council to enhance the area for nature and to bring “huge benefits to the people of Erskine”.

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Daily Record – Paisley