Bo’ness residents sent a strong message to developers that 120 new houses beside the village of Muirhouses are not wanted by the community.
Around 50 people attended a special meeting of Falkirk Council held in Bo’ness Academy on Monday evening, where councillors, who will help to make the decision, heard from the developer and some of the locals who oppose the plans.
Stewart Milne Homes is seeking planning permission in principle to build 120 houses on the 11 hectares of agricultural land beside Muirhouses.
Planning official Brent Vivian reported that the proposals had attracted 140 responses, with 138 of them being objections.
He stressed that, as yet, the planning department was not making any recommendations and it would take into account views expressed at the meeting.
All of those attending who spoke were strongly opposed to the house building, with fears raised about the traffic it would bring to Carriden Brae and worries about how schools and doctors’ surgeries would cope. They also echoed the concerns of Falkirk Community Trust’s Museum Services that the land is not only a hugely important site for its Roman connection, but also has a rich heritage as part of the landscape of the Carriden estate.
One objector described the proposals as “catastrophic” for the area, which has wildlife including bats, badgers and owls. She said: “It’s going to change the character of what we have – we have no crime in our area because we look out for each other.”
Shelley Thomson, planning and land manager with Stewart Milne, said that the company was proud of its reputation for award-winning “place building” and pledged to build something that would enhance the community. The firm had held consultation events and it had tried to work with local people to deal with the issues raised and she stressed they would be maintaining the woodland that wraps around the land.
Ms Thomson told the meeting that more than 63 per cent of people buying in the company’s development at the Drum were from Bo’ness, showing there was a demand from local people.
But those who spoke were unimpressed with the company’s suggestions and there was particular anger at plans to have a road going through Gledhill Avenue. This was proposed by the developers as a secondary entrance for emergency vehicles although the main entrance will be from Carriden Brae itself.
However, a representative from Falkirk Council’s roads department said they would rather it was opened up to all cars as a secondary access point, as the national roads guidelines discourage cul-de-sacs.
Many residents expressed their fears that more traffic coming onto Carriden Brae would be a disaster.
Several said the narrowness of the road meant that cars frequently had to mount the pavement to get out of the way of the many HGVs that use it – and that would be where children would be expected to walk to school.
Councillors are not allowed to express opinions either way at this stage, but local members Anne Ritchie and David Aitchison did ask for more information about many of the issues raised, in particular the narrowness of the pavement and heavy traffic on Carriden Brae and the impact on local schools.
Several other councillors asked for more information on the impact on services, flood risks and the historic nature of the area.
Councillor Allan Nimmo criticised the fact that no submission had been received from the NHS on how local services would be affected.
The proposal will now be referred to a meeting of Falkirk Council although there is no date for that at the moment.