There will be a public meeting tomorrow night (14th November) at 1930hrs in Calderbank Community Centre regarding the campaign by the local community to oppose the housing development proposed by Orchard Brae. News of this appeared in the Daily Record on Saturday and the news article itself makes for some interesting reading.
Alex Neil MSP who previously referred to professional planners as “Luddites” turned his ire on not only North Lanarkshire Council but against the “Luddites” who try to influence them. He didn’t mention the Faskine development in particular, however most people in the community aren’t fooled. They take it to mean them.
Having seen what happened with the Caldercruix Quarry campaign I can see a pattern repeating itself here and sadly I think the end result is likely to be the same. Local politicians who are directly affected will of course get involved; rightly so. It’s their community which is affected. The more remote politicians will either say nothing or offer support but not really do very much.
The one’s who concern me are those who try to play both sides. I see this happening on two levels. Labour/Tory run North Lanarkshire Council shall oppose it. Probably some local SNP councillors will oppose it too. The development will then be referred to the Scottish Government Minister, who will refuse it. It will then be appealed and go to the independent Scottish Government planner, who will probably approve it. The Minister will defer to the planner, the Labour/Tory coalition in North Lanarkshire will then back down and harumph a little but get on with it, after all they support job creation and investment and have already said they are looking to have a new railway station built at nearby Eurocentral. That’s ideal if you are looking to serve a rather large housing development and industrial area.
North Lanarkshire Council’s assistant chief executive for Enterprise and Human Resources, Des Murray is on record as saying “Eurocentral is a prime location for business and a rail station which links, not only to other parts of Scotland, but to the rest of the UK, would make the area even more attractive to businesses. We would fully support this proposal and will work with the Scottish Government and other partners to help make this proposal a reality for North Lanarkshire and Scotland.” In fact North Lanarkshire Council’s website speaks of the City Deal and “the council’s wider programme of support to improve access and connectivity in the A8/M8 corridor area between Baillieston and Newhouse.”
The most startling piece of support comes from Conservative list MSP Graham Simpson who along with Richard Leonard of Labour are being portrayed as the big hitters in support of the community. In September 2017 Graham Simpson spoke in support of Ruth Davidson’s call for a “new generation of new towns to be built”. He then went on to say that “It is time for a new wave of settlements, designed for active travel, designed to use less energy, and designed for the people, with the people. To do that, we say that there should be a new national housing and infrastructure agency and a cabinet minister covering the same”
In September 2016 he said in Parliament “We need more homes across the board, including privately owned homes. Reforms to the planning system can help with that but we will not see legislation until next year. I wonder whether Mr Stewart could find a way to speed up the implementation of measures such as simplified planning zones, on which he would find support across the chamber. That could unlock and hasten development.”
And before that in June 2016 he voted against a ban on fracking. So I am somewhat sceptical that this pro large scale house building, pro-fracking, pro-loosening of planning regulation MSP will do his utmost to thwart a large scale housing development. If, as I suspect, this is bounced all the way up to the Scottish Government reporter who then approves it, Mr Simpson can claim some brownie points from the community while at the same time not being overly disheartened when his party’s overall aim is realised.
Like the Caldercruix Quarry I have a feeling that the Save The Faskine Woodland will undoubtedly be led a merry dance and will ultimately be disappointed in their campaign, though I wish them well. Sadly they refuse to acknowledge the political aspects of their campaign (to the extent of blocking those who do try to raise the issue online (although oddly they have no problem with any comments in reference to Alex Neil MSP), and ultimately, as is often the case, those who can afford the best lawyers will win.