It is 4.30 and we are now into …

Comment posted Waitrose has £325k on table for Tuesday planning hearing – and opposition rolls in by Councillor George Freeman.

It is 4.30 and we are now into PPSLC members asking questions before everyone sums up. It could be another hour or so before we have a decision depending on how many questions are asked.

Councillor George Freeman also commented

  • Cllr Reay now moving a motion to approve the application. Now reading it out to obtain confirmation if it is competent or not. Now seconded by the Chair – Cllr Kelly.

    Application has been approved.

  • In the final straight now. Cllr McCuish has confirmed his support as has Cllr Reay. We only await the views of the Chair.
  • Alex McNaughton has also confirmed his support along with Gordon Chalmers. It is now clear that it will be approved if a competent motion / amendment can be put together.
    Cllr McAlister has also indicated support along with Cllr Devon, Cllr McMillan and Cllr McQueen.
  • Bruce Marshall has stated that he will support the application if a competent amendment can be brought forward. David Kinniburgh has stated that he will be doing the same. Robin Currie has stated that he hopes the application will be approved but the mitigation is insufficient. He is looking for an additional £420k in mitigation for various items. Neil McKay also looking to support it if an amendment can be put together but needs more mitigation.
  • Summing up now complete. Now moving on to the PPSLC members debating the issue before the decision is taken. It looks like it will be an approval but watch this space.

Recent comments by Councillor George Freeman

  • Castle Toward a gone deal
    Firstly I should say that I agree with much of what John Semple and Integrity say above (but not all). I should also say that some of the comments from individuals above are totally misguided and/or misinformed. As far as yesterday’s Council meeting is concerned, I believe that it is worthwhile clarifying a few issues.

    I have produced many motions and amendments for Council and Committee meetings over the years, both as an opposition councillor and as an administration councillor. Many of these were straight forward and did not require advice from Council officers. Where an issue is even slightly complicated, sensitive or very important such as the Castle Toward issue, I would always take advice from Council officers on the competency of my draft motion/amendment well in advance of the meeting. Officers are always willing to give such advice to any councillor, be they part of the administration or not. I would never take the risk of turning up at a meeting with a motion or amendment that could be ruled incompetent. That would be a waste of everybody’s time and would not help me to achieve the result I was looking for.

    It should be remembered that it is the Provost who rules on the competency of any motion or amendment. Advice will always be provided by the appropriate officers but the final decision is the Provosts. As far as yesterday is concerned, the view of the Legal Manager was provided before officers gave final advice on the competency of Cllr Breslin’s amendment to the Provost. Clear reasons were given as to why officers considered that the amendment was not competent. The Provost is in a no win situation whatever his decision. It would be a brave Provost or Chair of a Committee who would go against the advice of officers as they would have difficulty in justifying their decision.

    I was most surprised to discover that Cllr Breslin had not taken advice from officers on the competency of his proposed amendment long before yesterday’s meeting. That is a massive risk to take, especially on such an important and controversial issue. Personally, I would never have taken that risk and would have obtained advice from officers so that I was confident that my motion / amendment was not going to be ruled as incompetent at the Council meeting. Even if I was to lose the vote, it would ensure that the issue was debated and that I managed to get my views across in public. If Cllr Breslin did consider seeking advice from officers, I can appreciate why he may have decided not to do that.

    As Alan Stewart of SCCDC and many councillors (including Cllr Breslin) and Council officers will be aware, I spent a great deal of time working on Business Plans and valuations in the lead up to yesterday’s meeting and had prepared a wide range of questions/comments that I intended raising at the meeting. Unfortunately, because there was no competent amendment, I did not get the opportunity to raise any of these issues.

    After the Provost had ruled Cllr Breslin’s amendment not to be competent, he asked if there were any other amendments. I was surprised that at that stage, none of those councillors (such as Cllr Marshall, Cllr Blair, Cllr Strong, Cllr Dance or Cllr Breslin), some with years of experience, who had clearly expressed support in the past for the sale of Castle Toward to SCCDC at the reduced price, did not bring forward another amendment. There was no need for them to provide a detailed amendment. All they had to do was to move that the matter be continued to another day. Although they may still have lost the vote, that would have allowed the matter to be debated in public and would have given them the opportunity to have a roll call vote which would have recorded the names of every councillor and how they voted. Unfortunately, they did not take that opportunity.

    My understanding is that the record will now show that the decision taken by the Council yesterday on Castle Toward was a unanimous decision of the Council.

    I hope that this helps to clarify a number of issues with regards to yesterday’s Council meeting.

  • Castle Toward: the smoking gun
    Newsroom states in her report that: “It is being said that members of the council’s administration were told by senior officers only last week that they had no option but to sell at the District Valuer’s price”.

    For the avoidance of any doubt, as a current member of the Council’s Administration, I can categorically state that no such statement has ever been made by any Council officer or Member of the Council at any meeting that I have attended.

  • Council Planning Committee meeting on 21st January promises to be lively – as 2 MSPs call for postponement
    Integrity, I agree. When dealing with any planning application, especially those such as wind farms, fish farms and nuclear facilities that tend to attract a large number of representations (often from out with the UK), councillors are reminded that it is up to them to decide how much weight they apply to individual representations.
    I would normally give much more weight to an objection or letter of support from someone who lives next to a proposed development and will see it on a daily basis than one from someone living at the other end of the country or in another country who is unlikely ever to see the development. I can only speak for myself but I am sure that the same applies with most councillors.
    Many of the objections that were received against this planning application were clearly “political comment” and were highlighted as such by Planning Officers in their report to Committee and were certainly not material to the determination of the application. All the objections and the Planning Officer’s report are available on the Council website for anyone to view.
  • Council Planning Committee meeting on 21st January promises to be lively – as 2 MSPs call for postponement
    As a member of the Planning, Protective Services and Licensing Comittee (PPSLC), I can confirm that what Integrity says is correct. This planning application was approved today.

    Looking at the comments from Michael Russell above, I have to laugh. He said: “I call on Argyll and Bute Council to postpone the meeting to allow objectors to be present, given the strong feelings in my constituency that further nuclear development at Faslane is unacceptable”. What he does not say is that Faslane is NOT in his constituency. It is in Jackie Baillie’s constituency which includes over 30% of the Argyll & Bute population. It is also clear from the report that approximately 90% of those making representations do not live within Michael Russell’s constituency and are therefore not his constituents.

    Michael Russell also says that: “One week is simply not enough time for substantial representations to be made”. He does not appear to realise that this planning application has been available for the public to make representations on since October last year. Over 700 representations were made on this application and all of these representations were submitted last year. It is clear from this that the public had months to make representations on this application and not just one week as Michael Russell puts it.

    If Michael Russell felt so strongly about this issue or shared the concerns he says his constituents have, why did he NOT bother to submit any representations himself?

    Michael Russell called on “Argyll and Bute Council to postpone the meeting to allow objectors to be present”. If Michael Russell believes that the “objectors” felt so strongly about this application, he may wish to say why no “objectors” bothered to turn up? One person was sitting in the public area of the Council Chambers throughout the whole of the PPSLC meeting and, although I may be wrong, they appeared to be a local reporter.

    It is also noted that Stuart McMillan, who is a list MSP and not a constituency MSP, called on the “local authority to postpone the meeting to allow the time for those concerned to play their part in the decision making process”. He also said that he had “been contacted by constituents who are angry and frustrated at this lack of transparency by Argyll and Bute Council”. It should be pointed out that this planning application was treated in exactly the same way as any other planning application. Given that over 700 people made representations, it is clear that all those concerned DID play their part in the decision making process. It is also clear from the level of representations that, as with any other planning application, the Council was fully transparent and that the public had (and took) the opportunity to play their part by making their views known to the Council.

    Like Michael Russell MSP, Stuart McMillan MSP obviously did not feel strongly enough about this application to bother making any representations.

    Michael Russell states that this is “further nuclear development” at Faslane as if this was an escalation of the local nuclear facilities. Although not a planning consideration, this proposal is to provide one modern facility to replace the current two aging facilities that deal with waste materials and is a welcome modernisation.

  • Save Castle Toward campaign brings it on home to Walsh and MacQueen
    Isla, from your comments, it certainly appears that you are on the inside and probably a councillor. I can assure you that there is no fight between Cllr McCuish and me to take over the position held by Cllr Dance. As far as I am aware, there certainly has been no suggestion that Cllr Dance will be removed from her position and, as far as I am concerned, such a change has never been mentioned or considered.
    Why should such a change be considered? Councillors within the Administration are free to vote as they wish but would be expected to give warning to the Group / Administration if they were going to vote against the Group / Administration. I have repeated on a number of occasions that I would not be part of any political Group / Administration where a whip was applied.
    If you can find one person who has said that I want to take on the position held by Cllr Dance then you should name them as, to put it bluntly, they are a liar.
    It should be clear to anyone who knows my history that I, as an Independent councillor, do not “do as I am told by Morton, Mulvaney, Walsh, or Kelly” as you put it or any of the other 31 councillors. I try to work with all councillors and seek consencus but, if there is an issue that I feel strongly about, I will not toe anyone’s line as was clear 4 years ago during the schools closure debate. At that time I stuck to my guns and was thrown out of the Administration that was in place at that time for doing so and lost the extra responsibility allowance that went with my position. My reputation is more important to me than money.

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37 Responses to It is 4.30 and we are now into …

  1. Helensburgh has rejected a supermarket on the pier three times in the past decade. How many more times do you need to hear it?

    That being the case, the rest of your argument falls. I am beginning to think we need a For Helensburgh website, leaving you to concentrate on the old Argyll area where you are clearly better informed.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

    • It is about For Argyll itself, which in many respects I admire but which does not seem to have much of a clue about Helensburgh.

      This morning at the hearing it was made clear, through various surveys, that thousands were in favour of Waitrose at Colgrain, and that there was a roughly 55-45 split against a pier supermarket.

      Yet For Argyll has consistently claimed the opposite in both cases.

      Today there is a huge attendance of Waitrose supporters and, so far, six objectors have put their heads above the parapet.

      Interestingly, the only person booed this morning was the representative of Helensburgh Retailers Association.

      If I was the editor of For Argyll, at this point I would be questioning the quality of the reporting.

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  2. For Argyll don’t seem to understand my area either. Folk here are still waiting to learn the membership make up of the Easdale Island charity, Eilean Eisdeal, and how the money was spent from the Scottish Gas Green Streets award. For Argyll claimed that this information should be in the public domain – so where is it? We seem to have been forgotten or FA aren’t interested in persuing this further. Perhaps they’re not bothered about the rights of folk here, or is it too political?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

    • Lowry – as you must know, we are a very small team with a huge amount of work to do and we cannot keep absolutely on top of everything.

      We haven’t forgotten about this matter and we will be pursuing it.

      You gave us a smile at the suggestion that this – or anything – might be ‘too political’ for us. Hardly our MO.

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  3. Copied from URTV’s Facebook page:

    Final count is 693 letters of support to the council for Waitrose and 137 letters against, including a petition. There were also 7 miscellaneous letters.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  4. Same source again – URTV:

    The Council Planning Department and Waitrose have both spoken. The Planning Department say that the effects on the town centre could have been grossly underestimated by Waitrose’s retail impact survey and that they are maintaining that they recommend refusal of the application.

    Waitrose still believe that the effects on the town centre will be negligible and they can mitigate them. Waitrose spokesperson, Martin Gorman, received a big round of applause for saying Helensburgh is crying out for a good quality food store.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  5. I could be wrong. But I think they made an exception for Henry Bros at Colgrain, which was greenbelt outwith the local development plan. That seemed strange at the time. Probably a large brown envelope involved there.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  6. From URTV again:

    ‎30 pro Waitrose representatives have spoken, including Councillor Vivien Dance and Community Councilman Nigel Harman. Now it’s over to the objectors.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  7. We cope with bin collections once a week (or even fortnightly) so how about fancy supermarket visits once a week? – a Waitrose on a seagoing barge, serving the west coast – say from Helensburgh to Fort William, stopping off at Dunoon, Rothesay, Campbeltown, Oban, Fort William – and maybe Tobermory and Port Ellen alternate weeks. Just dreaming. At Helensburgh it would tie up at the pier, of course. The supermarket aisles would be cushioned with giant airbags to keep everything shipshape on passage, and maybe even giant gimbals would be effective.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  8. Bruce Marshall has stated that he will support the application if a competent amendment can be brought forward. David Kinniburgh has stated that he will be doing the same. Robin Currie has stated that he hopes the application will be approved but the mitigation is insufficient. He is looking for an additional £420k in mitigation for various items. Neil McKay also looking to support it if an amendment can be put together but needs more mitigation.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  9. Alex McNaughton has also confirmed his support along with Gordon Chalmers. It is now clear that it will be approved if a competent motion / amendment can be put together.
    Cllr McAlister has also indicated support along with Cllr Devon, Cllr McMillan and Cllr McQueen.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  10. Pingback: Argyll News: RIP Helensburgh town centre: Waitrose out of town location approved | For Argyll

  11. A long hot day, but full marks to the Helensburgh area public for their active participation.

    The right result too, so long as Waitrose are not put off by the vastly increased ‘mitigation payment’.

    On a wider stage, Government should be looking at how such payments, which are pure and simple bribery, could be regulated.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

    • I thought ‘mitigation’ in the context of a supermarket proposal meant meeting the cost of any extra roadworks, pedestrian crossings etc made necessary by the extra traffic generated by the development. I’d like to know if some councillors took a more elastic view of the meaning of the word.

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  12. I’m sure they won’t be put off by the mitigation payment. In all probability there will be negotiations over the purchase price between drum & waitrose. The application was made under two names – Waitrose & Wandering Wild (aka drum). It is highly likely that there is an agreement between drum and waitrose, where waitrose purchase the land subject to planning approval. This allows them to attach caveats re planning gain / mitigation payments. It will probably be drum who take a hit on the price. They’ll be aware that without planning approval their land is worthless. I actually think planning gain is a good thing. Just as long as it reaches the intended parties and not the council coffers, which sadly often happens.

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  13. I’d like to see the money used to directly improve the retailers units / frontages. I’ve attached a link to the merchant city initiative below, which completely transformed that area.
    http://glasgowmerchantcity.net/regeneration.html
    I’m pleased Waitrose got their approval. Had Waitrose been rejected, then all that would have happened is a continuation of the current decline of the town centre. That decline is due to the apathy of a lot of shop keepers. Either the shopkeepers take this opportunity to get their fair share of mitigation money to improve the service that they provide. Or they sell up and allow the next generation of shopkeepers to take over. I’m sure like me, the majority of Helensburgh shoppers do not want to soley shop in Waitrose. To me the Waitrose development has always been about a high end outlet recognising the potential and wanting to invest in our town, which will hopefully be a catalyst for further investment in the town centre.

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