Last Thursday’s edition (13th September) of the Helensburgh Advertiser carried an advertisement from Osborne Interiors offering Castle Woods and Jutland Court for sale.
This would indicate that Osbornes have come to the conclusion that their planning application for 72 dwellings at Castle Woods is now unlikely to be approved.
If that is the case – and it is hard to see any other interpretation – it represents the positive impact of confident consistency from the planning department at Argyll and Bute Council, with a more independent stance than has sometimes been the came. They are to be congratulated. Mr Young’s letter to Osborne’s solicitor, which we published here, laying out without equivocation the council’s views and advice on this application, clearly got the message through.
The proposed sale is also recognition of the tireless and determined efforts to save Castle Woods by the Helensburgh Community Woodland Group (HCWG), which itself will have stiffened the resolve of the planners. The group’s campaign generated almost 300 objections to the planning application over the last few weeks.
Wisely, the group intend to continue with the campaign until such time as Osbornes’ planning application is formally withdrawn.
They say that ‘irrespective of who owns the land, we will remain vigilant in our fight to see Castle Woods permanently retained as an Open Space Protection Area (Ed: which it has been for some time but which Osborne’s wished to overset) and well-managed for everyone’s benefit.
‘We will also need to explore whether Osbornes’ decision opens up an opportunity for HCWG itself to own or lease Castle Woods as a community woodland.’
The Helensburgh Advertiser also reported the considerable efforts of Jackie Baillie MSP and Councillor James Robb to accelerate remedial action at the ravaged site on Cumberland Avenue. Helensburgh Community Woodland Group strongly welcomes these interventions.
In the case of the Cumberland Avenue site, the subject of possible enforcement action by the council, the newspaper reported the surprising response from the developers – that ‘Osbornes Interiors does not own the land’.
It is locally understood that the Advertiser got this information directly from Mrs Margery Osborne. Osborne Interiors had owned the land in Cumberland Avenue – which was illegally clearfelled in an attempt to leave the council with no option but to consent a panning application. This new information would suggest that, with the council’s move to enforcement action in progress, ownership of the site may simply have been transferred to another part of the Osbornes business empire. This would be no more than a delaying device against the impending action.
The Helensburgh Commuity Woodland Group will be check this out once the transfer of ownership of the site has been formally registered in the Land Registry for Scotland.
In all of this, the sign of hope in cases of abuse of the law and of, as in this case, unacceptable pressures applied to council planners, is that a determined, persistent community group, taking pains to be well informed and to keep up with the swerves of tricky developers, is a powerful force to be respected.