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Helensburgh Golf Club: Deadline extended – again – for decision on plans for 300 homes

THE fate of plans to build more than 300 new homes in Helensburgh won’t be decided until at least September, it’s been revealed.

According to Argyll and Bute Council’s own planning rules a decision on the Taylor Wimpey and Helensburgh Golf Club development should have been reached by May.

But documents published on the local authority’s website reveal that the council has now asked for not one but two two-month extensions to the determination deadline.

The application – for more than 300 homes on part of the existing golf course, as well as a new clubhouse and new holes for the course – was validated by council officials on January 20 and was due to have been decided by May 19.

According to those documents a two-month extension was agreed between the council and the developer, taking the deadline to July 19.

But the authority has now contacted chartered surveyors Montagu Evans, who are working with Taylor Wimpey and the golf club on the plans, asking for that deadline to be extended as well.

And the number of objections to the application – 85 as this article was published – also makes it likely that the application will be decided by the council’s planning, protective services and licensing committee rather than by officials alone – meaning it’s possible that there won’t be a decision until well into the autumn.

‘Complexity of the application’

The letter, written by senior council planning officer David Moore, states: “As you may be aware, the council should determine your planning application within four months, unless an extended period can be agreed in writing with the applicant or their agent.

“Unfortunately, due to the complexity of the application, it has not proven possible to determine your application within the four month period.”

As reported in the Advertiser last week, the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA) has lodged a ‘holding objection’ against the proposed development, citing concerns in the existing plans over the impact on soil and peatlands at the site and seeking more information on that issue and on measures to reduce flood risk.

And it’s now emerged that Argyll and Bute Council’s own biodiversity officer also has concerns about the plans.

Marina Curran-Colthart, in a letter written to the authority’s planning department, says that the current proposals, if approved, will result in the loss of 23 per cent of habitat space for wildlife at the Blackhill Mire, which is officially designated as a ‘ local nature conservation site’ (LNCS).

Ms Curran-Colthart says: “The loss of almost a quarter of the Blackhill Mire LNCS, and the potential impact as a result of the construction and ongoing management of the golf holes, is unacceptable in terms of the reduction of the designation itself, as this type of LNCS are irreplaceable.

“In terms of peat habitat and the golf course, I request a re-design in order to avoid Class 1 peat [‘deep peat’] and the Blackhill watch LNCS. I also note that peat on the proposed housing development has not been factored in and I request that the applicant re-visits the layout in order to mitigate the effects on the peat.”

‘Reassure the community’

Ms Curran-Colthart also asks for more tree planting on the housing development, for bird and bat boxes to be installed on established trees, and for ‘hedgehog highways’ between each of the gardens.

A spokesperson for Taylor Wimpey and Helensburgh Golf Club said: “Our planning application is currently being considered by Argyll and Bute Council and we welcome engagement from all statutory consults ahead of its determination.

“We would like to reassure the local community that the concerns raised formally by SEPA, and the council’s biodiversity officer will be addressed through the planning process.

“As a responsible homebuilder, and in recognition of the complexity of our proposal and the discussions taking place, we are comfortable with the council’s proposal to extend the determination deadline by a further two months.”

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