By Monica Gibson

A HOUSING association pursuing controversial plans to build 14 affordable homes in Neilston says walking away from the development is not an option.

The application, which would see the flats and associated car parking near Kirkstyle Lane, was received by East Renfrewshire Council (ERC) on July 12 from Barrhead Housing Association (BHA).

The submission follows meetings, consultations and concerns being raised by local residents and councillors who feel development could “choke the community”.

After discussing the matter, listening to the many concerns raised and reflecting on his own reservations, Councillor Paul O’Kane, who is convener for Education Equalities, said he wrote to BHA asking them to reconsider their proposal.

He added: “I am concerned the development is not wholly supported by local people in Neilston and would exacerbate parking issues, traffic management and school access – as well as put at risk a 150-year-old tree and an area of open space in the heart of the village.

“Many representations have been made to me regarding these issues by my constituents and I cannot confidently say that the development commands the support of the people of Neilston.

“BHA has not reconsidered and have submitted the application which must be determined by the council planning applications committee.

“I do not serve on this committee but I would urge local people to make their views known on the application through the online planning service.”

A spokeswoman from BHA said there had been a degree of frustration in arranging meetings with ERC’s planning department.

She added: “At the first meeting in May 2017, we were asked to change our proposal to allow the existing car park to remain in its current position and to review the location of our proposal to build 14 new homes.

“This would result in more car parking being made available. BHA then held a consultation event on July 4 in Neilston to offer local residents the opportunity to comment on our proposals and this was ahead of our plan to submit an application to the Council’s planning department a week later.

“We have had one letter from a local councillor dated July 20 and we are in the process of meeting with the council to discuss these issues further. We have spent considerable sums of money, our tenant’s rental income is our main source of income, to support the development of this site to date.

“We cannot just simply walk away from the site or move it elsewhere without considerable further sums of money being found.” The application is currently going through the planning process with East Renfrewshire Council. We are continuing our dialogue with East Renfrewshire Council.

The spokeswoman confirmed the application is going through the planning process, that dialogue with ERC is continuing and added: “We are aware that this site was identified by the local community as a housing site nearly 10 years ago but with the economic down turn, nothing was progressed until now.

“BHA has responded to the Scottish Government’s request to build 50,000 new affordable homes. There is currently funding available to build this development of 14 new homes and if the money isn’t spent, it will be lost to the area.

“We have submitted the results of our consultation event to East Renfrewshire Council and await a decision on the Planning application. BHA is not responsible for the ongoing traffic management issues at the school gate and of course we would support any moves to remove the congestion here.

“In the last year, we are only aware of one request to use the green space for a local event which was accommodated elsewhere.”

The Barrhead News also understands Neilston Community Council has contacted Scottish National Heritage following reports of bats using the tree in the square to roost.

SNH and BHA are looking into this but in the meantime, BHA added: “The tree is not subject to a preservation order and it cannot be retained if we are to build 14 new homes – we understand it may be about 60 years old.

“BHA has at present a housing list of 250 people waiting to be rehoused in Neilston and this site will bring much needed affordable housing to the village, in close proximity to amenities.”

To view the application, search for 2017/0481/TP on East Renfrewshire Council’s website.