Protestors to hold demonstration outside Renfrewshire Council HQ against contentious 179-home development

Environmental campaigners are set to hold a demonstration against plans for a highly controversial housing development this weekend insisting council chiefs and elected members must listen harder to the people of Paisley.

Community group Save Paisley’s Green Space has invited people to stand outside Renfrewshire House on Saturday and show their opposition to a 179-home development that looks set to be built on the University of the West of Scotland’s (UWS) Thornly Park campus.

UWS, in partnership with Miller Homes, sought permission from Renfrewshire Council to demolish the sports pitches, disused student accommodation and Robertson Sports Centre at its campus to make way for the development.

The council refused the application last year citing the fact it didn’t include any plans for affordable homes.

But a reporter appointed by the Scottish Government has now signalled their intention to grant an appeal from UWS/Miller subject to a section 75 legal agreement being drawn up between the applicants and the council.

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Save Paisley’s Green Space handed in a petition signed by 1,160 people against the development arguing it would do damage to wildlife and mature trees, cause capacity issues at St Andrew’s Academy and lead to the loss of historic features such as part of the former Thornly Park Industrial School.

And dozens of objectors are expected to turn out at council HQ at 11am on Saturday to make their voices heard once again.

The demonstration will also stand against an application from developers CALA, Barratt and Bellway Homes to build more than 600 homes on surplus land at Dykebar Hospital, which is currently at an appeal stage with a decision yet to be made.

A spokeswoman for Save Paisley’s Green Space said: “We have tried hard over a long period to alert councillors and council officials to the inevitable damage and destruction to wildlife, mature trees, biodiversity and the local environment the development of the UWS site will cause.

“The local community have, at every opportunity, been registering their opposition to the development of Paisley South sites since before they were first included in the Local Development Plan (LDP) many years ago but have been ignored.

“Unfortunately, the Scottish planning system is heavily weighted in favour of large corporations that have the financial resources to appeal applications that are rejected by communities and their councils.

“Our demonstration is to show council officials and councillors in this year of local elections that they need to listen more to the electorate. They may have rejected this application but we believe a much more robust objection would have been harder to overturn.”

Before any planning permission can be fully granted, the council needs to finalise details of a financial contribution from the developers to St Andrew’s Academy as well as agree on the level and type of affordable housing to be provided.

The two parties were given 13 weeks to come to a resolution from November 23 last year, meaning an agreement requires to be reached this month.

A spokesman for Miller Homes said: “We are continuing to work with Renfrewshire Council to bring our development forward.

“We look forward to progressing the development at Thornly Park in due course.”

A Scottish Government spokesman added: “The right to appeal is an important part of the planning system. Independent reporters, who make most decisions on planning appeals, are required to do so on the planning merits of the case and in accordance with the development plan unless material considerations indicate otherwise.

“Reporters will take full account of all the evidence before them, including any representations from the local community.”

A council spokesman said: “We are required by the Scottish Government to offer up land for housing development. Our preference is for this to take place on brownfield sites wherever possible.

“Both the Thornly Park and Dykebar Hospital sites include substantial brownfield areas which were previously developed, and both have been assigned for housing in our LDP since 2014.

“The production of an LDP sees years of wide-ranging community consultation and detailed assessment of the sites in question by our officers, including the likely impact of any development on a range of factors, including local schools, roads, environment and more.

“The current LDP, adopted last year, returned a substantial area of land between these two sites to greenbelt, protecting it from development.

“Members last year refused a planning application for new housing on the Thornly Park campus, which the developers appealed. The Scottish Government Reporter has said they are minded to allow that appeal, subject to conditions and a legal agreement covering affordable housing, and their financial contribution to high school provision and safe walking routes to school.

“We remain in discussion with the representatives of the developer and will aim to secure an agreement which best serves the interests of the local community under the circumstances.”

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Daily Record – Paisley