I notice some of the houses currently being built at Westcliff have been built with their back to the magnificent views over the River Clyde. The houses and flats being built at Castle Street on the site of the old distillery look nothing like the images on the artist’s impression released by the developers and as for this building at Balloch (bottom picture) and across the road in Pier Road, little boxes come to mind. On what planet do our planners live? Here Ross Greer MSP explains how the SNP and Tories in the Scottish Parliament joined forces to have new and better legislation thrown out. Bill Heaney


River Leven Walkway from High Street to the Castle – but only if the purchase and planning details receive the green light.

Greer Ross 2The threat of losing green space or a totally inappropriate housing development can mobilise a community like little else, writes Ross Greer MSP, of the Green Party.

Our planning system pits communities against powerful developers seeking to make a profit, and the Scottish Parliament recently had the chance to level the playing field.

The question of who gets the right to appeal decisions is at the centre of this. Right now, if a planning application is turned down, the developer can appeal to the Scottish Government, even if elected councillors rejected it unanimously. On the other hand, if an application is approved, the community have no equivalent power to appeal it. The deck is stacked in favour of developers.

This means that if the Flamingo Land application is rejected by the National Park board – even on a clear decision to support 57,000 objectors and West Dunbartonshire Council – the developer can appeal the decision to the Scottish Government. If it’s accepted, that’s the end of the story, unless the government decide to call the decision in due to a conflict of interest.

Groups from all over Scotland came together to put an “equal right of appeal” into the Planning Bill that came before parliament last month. Despite hard work by campaigners and by my Green colleague Andy Wightman, SNP and Conservative MSPs backed the developer lobby and rejected the proposals.

And it’s not just on appeal rights that the bill was a disappointment. The SNP government joined the Tories in backing the interests of corporations, property speculators and wealthy landowners. For example, after a massive lobbying operation by Airbnb and other short term letting agencies, they opposed the introduction of regulation that would allow the control of the numbers of short-term let properties, which are forcing local residents out of communities like central Edinburgh and other tourist destinations.

Should power be held by government and the corporations who have their ear, or should it flow from the communities who have to live with these decisions in their day-to-day lives?

While the Greens and others stood up for communities, the SNP and Tories stitched up this bill in favour of developers – and our communities will be the ones to suffer for it.

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