Blackness Community Council seeks answers after demolition decision

The Blackness property which  the owners are being allowed to demolish to build a two-storey home.
The Blackness property which the owners are being allowed to demolish to build a two-storey home.

Blackness Area Community Council (BACC) is demanding answers as to why a house belonging to a unique part of the landscape will be demolished to make way for a larger, more modern home.

The community council has written to Falkirk Council’s head of planning and economic development to protest the decision to allow the house at 18 Mannerston Holdings in Blackness to be demolished.

Previously, Merv Archibald, a retired architect and convener of the community council, had attended a meeting of Falkirk Council’s planning committee to put his group’s case, but they were unconvinced and accepted the owners’ request to build a new house rather than update the old one.

However, the group say the decision flies in the face of planning policy and are asking why elected members can overturn the advice of their own officials who had recommended refusal twice. They describe the proposed new house as “a very large, out of character new house” which will not sit well in the special landscape area.

The letter says: “We on the BACC and many other local residents, including those familiar with planning and architecture best practice and who have upgraded and expanded their Holdings houses to make family homes in keeping with other properties in the area, are bewildered at how this application can be approved. We seek clarification and reasons from the planning committee for their decision.”

The Holdings were  built by a Bo’ness contractor between 1935 and 1937 to a Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries design, when the farms of Champany, Cauldcoats and Mannerston were converted into 75 small holdings.

The community council argues that over the years the houses developed a special charm and are gradually acquiring architectural and historic merit, and make a positive contribution to the landscape. The locale is also classed as a Special Landscape Area and they say a key part of this is the way in which the single storey Holdings dwellings blend naturally into the rolling landscape.

No 18 Mannerston is directly next to the House of the Binns estate which is managed by the National Trust for Scotland, and the community council also believes it will impact on other tourist attractions in the area.

“The application proposal would have a significant visual impact from the B9109, particularly given its prominent position at the crest of the hill when heading north to the village and for visitors to Blackness Castle.

“The site is also visible to the many visitors to Rouken Glen Garden Centre and Mannerstons Cafe/Farm Shop and from the adjacent busy A904. The proposed two-storey development would form a conspicuous, incongruous and negative feature in the landscape from these viewpoints.”

The councillors who took the decision say they carefully considered both sides of the argument and listened to Mr Archibald, then visited the site to see for themselves.

A spokesman for Falkirk Council said: “The report on this proposal was given due consideration at the planning committee following a site visit. A vote was taken on the item with members agreeing by a majority at the meeting that the development was acceptable in relation to its scale, visual amenity and impact on the surrounding area.”

The council also said it will respond to the community council formally.