Controversial housing plans for Falkirk red squirrel woodland to go before council again

Torwood Village speed limit sign
-Credit: (Image: Google Maps)

A Falkirk councillor says he "won't be bullied into any decision" as a controversial planning application returns for a fresh decision, two years after getting the green light.

The application, to build nine houses on a site to the west of Castlewood, Glen Road, was initially refused by Falkirk Council planning officers in June 2021.

This was overturned in March 2022, however, by then members of Falkirk Council's planning review committee, including Baillie James Kerr and Baillie Billy Buchanan, who are still on the committee.

Read more: Village school with just 11 pupils could be closed by Falkirk Council

At the 2022 hearing, members of the community urged councillors to protect the woodland which, they said, was home to red squirrels, pine martens, owls and other wildlife.

Scottish Forestry also argued that Torwood’s woodland, which has shrunk over the years, should be protected from any further development.

However, councillors Buchanan and Kerr - along with former councillor John McLuckie - agreed that the development would fit within the boundary of the village.

While they were 'minded to grant', however, this was subject to a legal agreement being signed regarding contributions towards education, compensatory planting and outdoor access through the green and blue network.

Today (Tuesday) members heard that the agreement had not been formally signed before major new planning laws were introduced by the Scottish Government.

Effectively that has meant that all planning applications that were not formally concluded now have to be looked at again in light of the new policies contained in the new national planning framework (NPF4).

Members of the committee agreed that the application should be redetermined, which will mean inviting new submissions from the applicant and the council, asking them to make clear any impact of NPF4.

After agreeing the procedure, Baillie Kerr said that he had already had emails about the new application.

He said: "I personally will look at the case afresh and look at the salient points from the officers and wait on the feedback from the applicant regarding NPF4.

"However, I will not be bullied into any decision by anybody.

"It will be a fresh look at this application and whatever decision the committee take will be on the merits of the information received."

Convener Billy Buchanan added: "The amount of abuse that the members who took the decision - Baillie Kerr, Councillor McLuckie and myself - received was absolutely shocking".

Members were told that there are significant new policies in the new planning framework that would not be compatible with the application so a fresh application is necessary.

As there are new members of the review committee, there will be another site visit before any decision is taken.

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