ERC are accused of holding secret talks

ERC caught out in secret talks with developer. �Paul Drury : Media Now, Giffnock
ERC caught out in secret talks with developer. �Paul Drury : Media Now, Giffnock

Council chiefs who plan to impose admission limits on the country’s top Catholic school are in secret talks that could lead to hundreds more children living in the area.

The council has come under criticism for insisting priority should be given to pupils who can prove a Catholic upbringing for entry to St Ninian’s High School in Giffnock.

The council says, because of excellent exam results, the building is full to capacity and some form of restriction now has to be imposed.

However, the council has been forced to confirm that it has been involved in confidential discussions with a developer who hopes to revive plans to build up to 155 houses within the school’s catchment area.

The inevitable arrival of more families would place St Ninian’s school roll under even greater pressure, argue local residents who have only just found out about the secret talks.

The unnamed developer hopes to team up with the local authority which owns land at Braidbar Quarry, in the heart of Giffnock.

The quarry was mined for hundreds of years for its distinctive grey sandstone.

Excavation work left huge underground caverns, which meant the ground above could not support construction.

Eight years ago, housebuilders Macdonald Estates tried to overcome the problem by suggesting a ‘reverse mining’ scheme, where the ground would be stabilised by injecting material into it.

That plan required the adjoining Huntly Park to be closed for two years, to act as a ‘reservoir’ for 800,000 cubic metres of water that would have to be pumped to the surface from the depths of the quarry.

Local residents mounted a high-profile campaign in opposition, gaining almost 2,000 signatures, citing the disruption to a residential area.

The scheme was abandoned after the Scottish Government Reporter ruled against it.

He said:”I conclude that the proposed remedial works and redevelopment of the site would be likely to have significant adverse effects on the current uses on the site, and to some extent on the surrounding area.”

One of the opponents, Dr Gordon Canning, 58, said: ”Here we go again. I am very concerned to learn there is even a possibility that the quarry might be developed.

“There is the associated disruption to local people plus the additional pressure this will place on local schools.

“My three children were lucky enough to go to St Ninian’s. The school is bursting at the seams as it is now, without the council inviting a developer to build hundreds more homes.”

Mrs Elaine Boyes, 48, whose garden backs on to the quarry, said:”We want to retain the lovely forest we have on our doorstep. There’s endangered wildlife living there.

“There’s no way local roads – already congested – could cope with hundreds of extra vehicles.”

Any development is likely to see the reformation of the Hands Off Huntly action group (HOHAG)which campaigned against the 2008 scheme.

Macdonald Estates founder Dan Macdonald confirmed his company is not the developer in question.

“East Renfrewshire Council has steadfastly refused to identify them and rejected a Freedom of Information request that would have revealed its correspondence over the quarry.

A council spokesperson said: “The remediation of the Braidbar Quarry site has been a priority for the council since 2015 as a longer term development opportunity in our Local Development Plan (LDP).

“Given the site’s status in our LDP, which was the subject of public consultation, we have been approached by potentially interested parties in the past which has never resulted in any development.

“A developer has recently been in touch with us regarding potential interest in the site however they have not undertaken any assessments.

“Any proposals to develop this site would be dealt with in the usual transparent way.

“For any development to take place, detailed proposals would need to be submitted to planning for consideration in accordance with the LDP.

“The site would also require full remediation before development which could take two years or more.

“These processes would all take a significant amount of time, so the potential development of this site remains a longer term objective as we have stated in the current LDP.

“No plans have yet been proposed for this site, but the impact that any potential development may have on infrastructure and delivery of council services would be fully considered during the planning process, in the event of an application being submitted at a later date.”