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Residents and politicians slam homes consultation

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By Charlotte MacKay
Annan and Eskdale
Residents and politicians slam homes consultation

AN online consultation about plans to build 200 homes at Gretna’s former golf course has been branded “hopeless” and “totally unsatisfactory.”

Alba Developments organised the online event last Thursday as part of the development of their planning permission bid for the 28.5-acre site north of Loanwath Road.

But many residents were unable to access the consultation, and those that could were left unsatisfied with the answers they received. Malor Park resident Beverley Robinson was able to obtain a transcript of her online chat with Alba representatives and shared it with the Annandale Observer.

In it she said: “Gretna does not require any more housing. The Hawthorns was started 30 years ago and it is still not finished. There is no employment here in Gretna, the school is not large enough for any more pupils, the doctor’s surgery cannot cope, the land in question floods during prolonged rain fall, there is a problem with water pressure and a problem with sewage.”

In the online proposals, Alba Developments described the former golf course as “overgrown and inaccessible.” But speaking earlier this week Beverley said: “It is not overgrown and it is not unused – there are cattle grazing on it as we speak! The farmer pays rent to Alba who claim they are responsible for keeping the land ‘in a tidy manner’ – the farmer is the one who does that and always has done. What they are trying to do here is totally wrong.”

Alba Developments had previously submitted a planning application to Dumfries and Galloway Council which received more than 20 formal letters of objection from residents. The application was eventually withdrawn after an official advised Alba to carry out community consultation.

Gretna residents have now accused Alba of trying to sneak the application through “under the radar”, and have joined forces to write to politicians expressing their concerns. A paper petition has already gathered more than 70 signatures, and the group hopes to set up an online version over the coming weeks.

Dumfriesshire MP David Mundell took part in last Thursday’s consultation and described it as “totally unsatisfactory.” He said: “In my view the developers give the impression they are taking advantage of the Covid-19 changes to the planning system to bring this proposal forward with a minimum of fuss. There are serious issues the developer has to address which cannot be appropriately dealt with through an online consultation, which is designed for urgent matters during the current emergency.”

Constituency MSP Oliver Mundell agreed and said: “It’s easy to understand why local people fear those behind the plans are trying to railroad through this major development when the council are understandably focussed on the Covid-19 response. It is not possible to have the appropriate consultation just now or to hold a public meeting to discuss the significant implications of this development for Gretna. That view has been made loud and clear to the company and yet they have decided to carry on regardless. I believe councillors should send the plans back to the drawing board and make the developers properly engage with the community.”

Alba managing director Shane Tickelpenny said they have engaged with 22 people so far and added: “There has been a good level of support as well as some tough questions, as we would expect from such an engaged local community. All of that input is welcome and will make our submission all the stronger to ensure we deliver the kind of new homes needed in the area.

“I know some were concerned about the necessity for an online consultation due to the Covid-19 pandemic and that is why we have sent hard copies of all information and feedback forms to the community council and will do so for anyone who needs them. I am also happy to speak to any local person directly by phone about their concerns and we have extended our deadline for comments by a week to ensure everyone who wants to contribute is able to do so.”

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