BILLIONAIRE businessmen Sandy and James Easdale have succeeded in their attempt to greatly increase the number of homes they can build at Spango Valley.
The Greenock brothers, in partnership with Advance Construction, have been allowed to amend a planning condition that limited them to 270 properties at the former IBM Greenock site.
Councillors on Inverclyde Planning Board today agreed that the upper level can be 450 homes instead.
They submitted an application to Inverclyde Council planning department seeking permission for the amendment, arguing that the limit imposed on them makes development commercially unviable.
The council originally imposed the condition on the Easdales’s mixed-use proposal because the district’s planning blueprint limits the number of houses and flats allowed at the whole IBM site to 420.
At the time the council stated this was “an acceptable level of development in terms of tested and available capacity by Transport Scotland and the Council as Education Authority.”
The Easdales own a large part of the vacant land but a further area has a different owner who has yet to submit plans.
But planners have now changed their position following changes in legislation, additional information from the applicant and continued lack of co-operation from the owner of the rest of the site which has prevented a masterplan being prepared.
Sandy Easdale said: “The redevelopment of the former IBM Greenock site will be transformational for Inverclyde and we’re pleased that the council has chosen to increase the number of dwellings allowed.
“The reduction rendered the £250million plan financially unviable and we would have lost the opportunity to attract new families to the area as well as the economic and jobs boost that will come from the development.
“When IBM closed, it created not only an unemployment shock for the region but also a visible property scar with little hope of regeneration. Thankfully, the potential now exists to heal that wound by unlocking substantial investment and in turn, creating new long-term prosperity for the area.”
James Easdale added: “Whilst we have lost a year since the original planning decision was made, the council has engaged and listened to the evidence provided and to their credit, has now come to the correct decision.
“The independent report makes clear that it will take determination from us to make the project work, even at the 450 unit level, but we are resolute in our purpose to see the site revitalised for future generations.
“Inverclyde is a great place to live and work and by creating quality homes, we can attract more people to the region. We look forward to getting started in the months ahead.”
A planning department report prepared for councillors stated: “Although the Section 42 application does not accord with the indicative capacity…the considerable environmental, social and economic benefits arising from a development of this scale have to be balanced against the possibility of the site remaining derelict with no prospect of development being realised as a result of the restrictions in numbers of 270 units.
“It is considered that the proposed development is deliverable and in principle can create quality places for people to live.
“In addition the consultation responses do not raise any issues regarding the number of residential units proposed by the applicant. In particular Transport Scotland has not objected in terms of the impact of the development on the capacity of the trunk road and the council’s education department has not objected to the impact on the capacity of schools.
“Overall, the indicative design approach to the development inclusive of the suggested scale and massing of the various elements is again considered acceptable in principle and it is considered that a development of a well-planned attractive nature with placemaking at the heart of the design can be achieved.”
The housing would be constructed in six phases over ten years. Indicative plans show there would be a mix of detached (15 per cent), semi-detached (24 per cent), terrace (25 per cent), townhouses (18 per cent) and flats (18 per cent). A quarter would be classed as ‘affordable’ housing.
A document included with the application stated: “It is the applicant’s position…that the reasons given (by the Council) for imposing this condition are flawed and that such a restriction leads to a non-viable planning permission, particularly since the planning permission contains contradictory conditions that require significant infrastructure improvements based on the development of a larger number of units than were approved by the permission.”
“The current unit restriction…was imposed through the arbitrary application of a site capacity that is not, so far as we are aware, supported by any evidence.
“The applicant contends that, through the provision of previously submitted technical information, the capacity of the site is greater than that identified by the council and that PPP [planning permission in principle] should have been granted for up to 450 units.”
The statement continued: “The applicant sought, from the outset, to work pro-actively and collaboratively with the council in order to identify a deliverable solution to the complex site of the former IBM factory.
“They also sought to engage with the neighbouring landowner and offered to buy their site (several times) or agree a Joint Venture (JV) approach to try and deliver a project across the whole allocation.”
A viability report prepared for the Easdales/Advance Construction found that the 270-unit development would result in a negative value.
A 450-unit scheme, “whilst not necessarily resulting in the level of profits that normal residential development would expect”, was considered viable.
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