Bo’ness Road closure row

Picture Michael Gillen. Bo'ness Road.
Picture Michael Gillen. Bo'ness Road.

A Labour councillor has hit out at Falkirk Council’s minority SNP administration, saying they are “sitting on a decision” that will lead to the final closure of part of Bo’ness Road in Grangemouth.

Petrochemical giant Ineos was granted planning permission to build security gates on the road by a Scottish Government minister against huge opposition from local residents and political parties.

But the final decision to close the road rests with the local authority, which will be asked to make a ‘stopping up order’ to finally close the road.

Cllr Joan Coombes told Falkirk Council’s planning committee that the planning application had been made in Jan 2017 and was given approval by the minister in March of this year.

She said: “The minister made his decision in March. The administration is sitting on this to avoid embarrassing the Scottish Government and the SNP councillors whose constituents are against the closure.”

But Councillor David Alexander, convener of the planning committee, refuted her claim saying that the delay was due to negotiations with Ineos over how much mitigation it was prepared to pay.

He said: “The stopping up order is quite a complex issue. There’s £24m of mitigation being discussed at the moment and you don’t get agreement for that in a few months.

“It’s going to take time to work with Ineos to get it put in place.”

Falkirk Council has asked for cash to dual the whole of Wholeflats Road to mitigate the extra traffic that will result from the closure of the section of Bo’ness Road that passes directly through the refinery.

The proposals has been controversial from the start with many locals objecting to the petrochemical giants’ plans to close the road.

The matter was referred to the Scottish government and two Scottish Government reporters recommended planning permission should be refused because Ineos had not properly considered the implications of the development of the vacant land within their complex.

Against his own civil servants’ advice, SNP minister Kevin Stewart granted planning permission.

Councillor Coombes argued strongly that the council should challenge the decision but Labour members were outvoted and the council’s planning  decided not to legally challenge the decision in the courts.

SNP members argued that challenging the decision would result in the council losing up to £22m of mitigation cash.

Councillor Alexander added: “We are trying to work with industry to protect jobs and improve the environment and what we’re getting is nothing but negativity.

“It seems that Joan won’t be happy until she closes that plant and loses us a significant part of our GDP.

“It’s not constructive and it’s not positive.”