East Kilbride News Column August 2018

THE future of the vacant land at Peel Park may be determined soon and I can report that South Lanarkshire Council has got itself into a right mess over it.

Readers may recall there has been something of a long-running saga over this site. Frankly, it should have been developed years ago and potentially hundreds of people could now be employed there. Tesco won permission to build a store there along with a Dobbies garden centre. Then Tesco sold a number of sites, including this one.

A new company, SC East Kilbride Limited, propose a retail development and have been waiting for around two years for a decision. To say they are frustrated with the council is an understatement. There has been a recent flurry of letters, which are interesting and a tad concerning. The council should have determined this by December last year.

On June 28 it wrote to the applicants’ planning consultant asking to be allowed extra time. The applicants agreed to this by email the same day. Five days later they received a letter in the post – also dated June 28. Remember, this was the date that the council pleaded for extra time to deal with what it described as a major/complex application.

The new letter though took a different stance and it appears that extra time was no longer being sought. The new letter said: “It is considered that the scale of the proposed development and its nature would be a significant threat to the town centre.” It went on to say: “It would be our intention to report the application to the earliest available planning committee with a recommendation for refusal.”

A cynic could conclude that the council pulled a fast one – getting the extension it needed and then delivering the bombshell. The applicants have told me that they will readily agree to restrictions on the units planned so that they can only accommodate bulky goods like furniture. The applicants argue that none of their potential occupiers would impact on the town centre.

I have written before that we need to protect the town centre. We cannot risk it going under. A new retail development would not automatically do that so the council must take a careful consideration here. And it needs to play fair, or risk a costly and damaging appeal.

I recently held a meeting with people interested in setting up a Friends of group for Westwoodhill Recreation Area. I invited along some very inspirational people from similar groups covering Cambuslang Park, Stonehouse Park and various groups in Edinburgh. There is a real appetite to do something, so the next stage will be to form a committee and agree a constitution.

This came about because of the threat from the council to build on the park. Out of that negative could come a positive.