By Bill Heaney
Dumbarton’s deprived West End will be given a facelift and economic boost if West Dunbartonshire Council gives the go-ahead for a major residential development at Clerkhill.
But tree lovers, who have watched dismayed as too many were chopped down in Dumbarton recently, should be prepared to look out their protest banners in anticipation of preservation orders being ignored as has happened at so many other local sites, including the former Council headquarters at Garshake.
The cruelly cut back trees and hawthorn hedge at Garshake Road.
And the new cemetery on Garshake Road, where a lengthy mature hawthorn hedgerow was brutally cut back with chainsaws, while Lumberjack Jonathan McColl, leader of the SNP administration, has been passing himself off as a tree lover and signing up to large tree planting schemes.
The proposed housing project is at the former St Michael’s Primary School, which was closed after regular vandalism caused the former Notre Dame High School and convent site to be closed and the primary school moved along Cardross Road to the site of the former St Patrick’s High School.
A new state of the art St Michael’s was built there after the then MP John McFall, now Lord Speaker at the House of Lords, put pressure on the then Conservative Scottish education minister Raymond Robertson, a former teacher at Dumbarton Academy, just after the Dunblane Primary School disaster when the Dumbarton school was deemed insecure.
The old Notre Dame convent and boarding school at Clerkhill in the West End and the chapel which sits above the cliffs looking out to the River Clyde.
Councillors were briefed on the pre-planning proposals for Clerkhill which stretches from Havoc Road through Westfield to the flagpole at the foot of Brucehill Road.
The majority of the site is now vacant although what remains of the former chapel building in the south west corner is still evident. The former chapel building has been delisted and a building warrant issued for its demolition.
This briefing was called to give members an opportunity to highlight any issues which they
consider any future planning application ought to address. The merits of the proposals
are not being considered, and no decisions will be made at this stage.
St. Michael’s Primary school was accessed from Cardross Road via The Avenue which ran south west as far as Craigend, which was used by the Notre Dame nuns as a care home for their elderly sisters and is now part of the Carmelite Monastery.
The Carmelite Sisters moved there after they decided to close their enclosed convent at Garmoyle in Kirktonhill.
Planning permission was granted in 2009 for the construction of 86 dwellings and the conversion of the chapel into four flats, but this consent was never implemented.
The site is described as being located to the south of Cardross Road and to the east of Havoc Road,
Dumbarton and comprises of an irregular parcel of land extending to 5.25 hectares.
The site can be accessed off Cardross Road and this also provides vehicle access to the
existing Carmelite monastery.
The Carmelite monastery is not within the application site but the proposed development layout retains access to this building.
At the northernmost part of the site the existing access to the site sits atop the train
line between Dalreoch and Cardross.
Brucehill and Firthview Terrace pictured from the River Clyde.
The boundaries extend to Brucehill – Brucehill Road, Glencairn Road and Firthview Terrace.
There is an avenue of trees that run through the centre of the site alongside the existing access to the monastery with some of these being subject to a Tree Preservation Order.
There is a rock face, known locally as The Cliff, evident to the southern site boundary and Havoc Road which drops in gradient from Cardross Road.
The surrounding land uses to the south and west comprise of well used areas of open space and owned by the Council and form part of the core path connections to adjoining land and a Local Nature Conservation site.
The indicative layouts submitted to date propose the construction of 82 houses comprising of 3 to 5 bedrooms with a mix of detached and semi-detached, two storey houses. Access to the site would be from Havoc Road.
The fact that there would be some tree loss resulting from this part of the proposal must be of serious concern to tree lovers in Dumbarton who have had significant problems recently with trees being felled without permission.
The layout takes the form of a ‘principal’ road that wraps around the retained Carmelite Monastery building.
A secondary vehicle road is proposed of which a number of houses will be sited which will back on to the railway line. Pedestrian links are provided off this secondary road to provide links to Havoc Road and the adjacent green spaces.
Through the centre of the site, the layout retains the existing access to the Carmelite Monastery and the trees protected by TPO [tree preservation orders] are also earmarked to be retained.
This layout forms a central ‘avenue’ through the site running north to south and houses have been orientated to face this to provide a strong building line.
The layout has also evolved to ensure the houses are set back from the trees so as to not prejudice their retention as a mature landscape feature.
Notre Dame chapel, Wallace’s Cave and the red sandstone cliffs at Havoc. Pictures by Bill Heaney
To the north, it is intended that the existing monastery access will also form a pedestrian link in to the site, this would be supplemented by a further pedestrian link from the east off Brucehill Road.
It is proposed that the children’s play space would be located within the northern part of the site.
The eastern ‘arm’ of the development layout has houses parallel to the existing house on Brucehill and Glencairn Road (See picture at top of this report with Cardross Road, Westfield and Westcliff bottom right).
At the end of this arm there would be four houses that make the most of their elevated positon and would enjoy views to the south over the River Clyde.
The majority of houses have their car parking spaces to the front of the house but there are some houses, where the car parking is proposed to the rear.