No inquiry allowed. It has been approved …

Comment posted RIP Helensburgh town centre: Waitrose out of town location approved by Councillor George Freeman.

No inquiry allowed. It has been approved with conditions. As long as the applicant accepts the conditions, it will go ahead. As far as I am aware, the only thing that could stop it now is if someone decided to take the decision to a judicial review or if there was a reason for the Scottish Government to call it in, both of which are now unlikely.

Councillor George Freeman also commented

  • One interesting thing I was told today at the hearing from one of the Waitrose supporters I have known for years (but have not met for some considerable time).

    There are now people in Helensburgh who objected to the CHORD proposals (and whose voices were ignored by the ConDemAll administration members), who are now seriously considering standing as candidates against the three Helensburgh town centre ConDemAll councillors who supported the CHORD proposals.

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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42 Responses to No inquiry allowed. It has been approved …

  1. Too right that ‘no one wants to see Helensburgh die on its feet’, but could there be other factors involved in the decline of the town centre? Only last week the boss of Sainsburys (probably aiming at the planners) suggested that town centres abandoned by the retail sector should concentrate on residential uses, and – however brutal and self-serving that suggestion – he was probably right, for some places. Maybe this will be a wake-up call for Helensburgh – it’s slightly off the beaten track, maybe not much more than a Glasgow commuter suburb disguised as a town? – and unfortunately has become cut off from fellow communities on the shores of the lower Clyde. That’s the impression I get, as an outsider.

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  2. I presume there will now be a planning inquiry as has happened several times before. So it’s not over yet.

    I think Robert’s assessment is fairly spot on and I speak a a lifelong Helensburgerite.

    I also think tht pronouncing the death of the town centre is premature–it all depends. Castle Douglas has an edge of town supermarket and the town centre is thriving, whereas in Dumfries, things are not so good.

    What has to be bourne in mind on both sides I that a significant number of Helensburgerites dont use the town centre at all: so instead of ranting about “unfair” competition, maybe time to think about how to persuade those people to change their minds.

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  3. Your prognosis for the town centre is dire indeed. It is not one that is shared by many residents of the town. We may have been dazzled by the smooth talking salesmen from Waitrose and blind to the catastrophe which you suggest will befall the town. It is a pity that the clear sighted majority, which you claim exists, did not turn out in numbers at the hearing todaay, and tear the rose tinted glasses from our eyes.
    A more positive vision for the town is now that something is happening, we are getting a new food store for which the public have waited many years, a new pool and leisure centre is promised, the town square is to be revamped and the west esplanade is to be given a facelift. Surely there is something to celebrate in that.

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    • Those who wished for and worked for the decision taken today are now obligated to work to demonstrate that this will indeed rejuvenate the town centre.

      You will be judged on the success you are confident you can achieve.

      And, in the interests of Helensburgh, we wish you well, without equivocation, in proving our prognosis wrong.

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  4. No inquiry allowed. It has been approved with conditions. As long as the applicant accepts the conditions, it will go ahead. As far as I am aware, the only thing that could stop it now is if someone decided to take the decision to a judicial review or if there was a reason for the Scottish Government to call it in, both of which are now unlikely.

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  5. One interesting thing I was told today at the hearing from one of the Waitrose supporters I have known for years (but have not met for some considerable time).

    There are now people in Helensburgh who objected to the CHORD proposals (and whose voices were ignored by the ConDemAll administration members), who are now seriously considering standing as candidates against the three Helensburgh town centre ConDemAll councillors who supported the CHORD proposals.

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    • And so they should. That part of the CHORD project which relates to Colquhoun Square is both desecration of a lovely square and a recipe for snarled up traffic in the town centre.

      It was ironic to hear Mars Mulvaney supporting Waitrose and arguing that the town centre would be ok, when his ‘kinky road’ project, as it is known locally, will provide a far greater threat to town centre retailers.

      In the light of the Waitrose decision, the council now has a perfect reason to halt the CHORD project for the square and begin a re-examination of what should be done in the town centre in the light of the new circumstances.

      I for one will not be voting for Councillor Mulvaney or the other two in May. Let him go back to his weekly Toyota photo call in the Dancevertiser!

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    • Sensible decision at last from the council. There were ever only two sites for a new supermarket and petrol station (both of which Helensburgh badly needs) – the Waitrose site or the top of Sinclair Street. A supermarket at the pierhead would be Helensburgh’s volcano – better bury the town centre in lava!
      I fear CHORD will destroy the town for retailers – better reconsider and spend the money making the pierhead attractive.

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    • It’s easy to grump about the Co-op, but despite the muttering it does serve Argyll pretty well – and I don’t think I’m imagining it to say that it’s improved its ‘offer’ steadily over the years

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      • I have got to say I think the Co-op is one of the most depressing places you could possibly shop in and I only do so once a fortnight. The other week I shop in Dumbarton. Don’t get me wrong I do support the town centre shops, I greatly believe in supporting local businesses, but I think the Co-op needs a wakeup call!
        I know people are worried about Waitrose coming to town, but I think it will be a good thing in the long run, the town desperately needs a new supermarket and petrol station and I do think it will encourage people to spend and keep there money in the town. The trouble in the past is that the council take so long to make a decision and then end up doing nothing.

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    • There remains the issue of their professional planning officers’ recommendations.

      Who would put planning decisions in the hands of the first fleet of woodentops rushing to approve it today?

      That’s exactly what has been done.

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      • I take it that the obvious incompetence and corruption (Dance) at play in this decision, combined with the rejection of professional planners advice, is not grounds for the Scottish Government to call it in?
        That’s the only chance Helensburgh has now.

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  6. I think it is great news. The Co-Op service is awful and Tesco simply doesn’t stock what I always want, hence I receive a weekly online shop from Sainsbury’s Great Western Road branch. Least with a Waitrose, I can contribute more to the local economy and may have a reason for visiting Helensburgh other than Coast and catching the train to Glasgow and beyond. Wake up Helensburgh residents!!!

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      • The Co-op needs to smarten its act up, its just like visiting a concrete jungle, the building looks tired and in need of modernisation. The inside was meant to have had an upgrade a few years ago, but I think they must be joking. The staff need to go on a motivational course,
        because they always look depressed, but then you would working in there! You never see the shop manager either, I think he just keeps his head down in case he gets complaints from customers.

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  7. Seriously? As someone who took the matter seriously enough to be there, your representation of the day’s events is at best partial and probably disingenuous. Of the 400 attendees, I would estimate that (conservatively) estimate that 90% were vociferously in favour of the development. The Planning Officer’s objection (that the area was classified for a different class of business usage, and that it used land earmarked for, erm, business use )were correctly weighed against the requirementto allow the people of Helensburgh an alternative to Tesco amd the Co-op and to grow another 180 jobs in the town.

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  8. Having read this website for many weeks, it often makes me angry. Newsroom/editor seems to be firmly in the camp of those who tell us what is best for us and what we need – not what we like and what we want. Beware of what you wish for. Lincolnshire communities are now against town centre supermarkets having watched them effectively killing town centres. I understand the Portas shopping report cites the mix of shops for a High Street success or not.
    At least my friends and I will not have to trek to Dumbarton once a week. I don’t mix coffee breaks with the weekly shop I prefer to get the freezer/fresh food straight home. Oh and the rest of the week I do use the local shops.

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  9. vivienne dance and ellen morton would be at the front of the mob if was a stoning. andrew nisbet – blocks town centre supermarket and then opposes waitrose. lib dems cover both options. unsung hero is james robb who got mitigation ramped up – dance was willing to sell out for £12k. overall a victory for public opinion.

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  10. If the dots get joined correctly i.e The CHORD Project, Waitrose Development, Pier Development, Kidson Park and Rhu Marina Developments then there is a real chance Helensburgh could well become a destination station for locals , visitors, tourists etc and the prize could well be a vibrant , buzzing town that will have something for everyone.

    In my ten years living in Helensburgh I have been overcome with the negativity surrounding any proposed changes whilst the town declines at an alarming rate. The time for change is now otherwise local business wont have to worry about ‘out of town’ influences as the continued transformation to a bland featureless desolate desert will more than likely attract few interested parties.

    Planning and change rarely satisfies 100% of the people but surely the proposals on offer have the ability to generate a better future and town for all of us or play the honesty card , return heads to the sand and pretend that it will be all right.

    ‘Change is Constant’ so all aboard The Happy Bus and let’s make it a better and happier town to live in and promote.

    It might just work you know!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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  11. Totally agree Mr McCallum,as far as I could see, there was always a big support for Waitrose’s application and I, for one, am delighted at this development.
    Currently, Helensburgh residents travel to Dumbarton for ASDA or Morrisons (or even M&S)- this might keep that business and more in the Town. Our local shops may even benefit ?????
    Another Petrol station ? Oh, yes please !!!

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  12. Well I am not happy about the Waitrose location, I think it is the wrong place and it WILL have an impact on the town centre that will be far outweigh the 860k bribe that they were foreced to pay. People will lose jobs, and businesses will close down, this will take time, probably about 5 years from now, and you may live to regret it. The prices at Waitrose are actually inline with the Co-OP so there will not be any saving there, although you can’t argue with having more choice on offer, however I wonder if people have fully thought this through.

    If Waitrose is a big success and this closes down Tesco and the Co-OP because of lack of trade then we are going to be left with two empty properties. The Co-OP in particular is a very large space to fill and it is unlikely that anyone other than another supermarket would pick this up. If say Asda or Tesco were to take it over, and transfer the staff then that would be great, but what happens if they dont? The staff in the Co-OP and Tesco will lose jobs and any increase in employment will be negated if that was to happen, so effectivly we will be just as bad as we are now.

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    • It is not about Waitrose v the Co – Op or Tesco it has to be about the bigger picture and overall job creation so yes maybe there will be earlier losses but overall growth through joined up development has to equate to enhanced opportunity.

      As for the Co – op site why just a supermarket, why not Halfords or another High Street retailer Gap, Next M&S, great location , center of town, super parking arrangements, train station adjacent etc. Big Picture is required and why shoot for the moon when we should be shooting for the stars and then let us see where we fall.

      Think Big, Think Positive – Think We can do this!!!!

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  13. David McCallum. Get real, this is Helensburgh we are talking about not somewhere like Dumbarton or Clydebank. If any of those clothing retailers would locate anywhere first, it certainly would not be Helesburgh. There are plenty of locations in Dumbarton that they could use but none have tried to open up there, and with there being a much bigger pool of people in Dumbarton it would make much more economic sense. The Co-Op building would be way to large for somewhere like Halfords or next or GAP anyway.

    Robert Wakeman. I think it is alwasy a possibility about to much trade being lost that it cannot be ruled out, however Waitrose is not known for good value for money so this is quite unlikely to happen. There is more chance that people will return to the Co-Op and regret allowing Waitrose to come to town in the first place.

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  14. siting Waitrose in east Helensburgh will not increase football to the town. Nor will it create new jobs. As the consumer spend is finite all it means is that some money spent in Helensburgh but more likely in Dumbarton will now be spent in Waitrose.

    Consequently any jobs created at Waitrose will result in fewer jobs in Asda and Morrisons in Dumbarton.

    bearing in mind that Dumbarton is the third poorest area in Scotland is there not a moral imperative on us to support Dumbarton where the loss of up to 180 jobs will have a devastating effect on these families who in all probability struggle much more than most Helensburgh families?

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  15. If Lochgilphead Co-op is mostly cheaper than Waitrose then Waitrose must be very expensive. I suspect that the quality of Waitrose own brand goods will be far superior to that of Lochgilphead Co-op.

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