A democratic deficit?

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MORE than 100 people gathered yesterday to protest planning proposals which would impact throughout East Renfrewshire.

It was all part of a day of community action, where concerned residents lobbied the planning applications committee as they visited three controversial sites.

There were three different protests in Newton Mearns, Stamperland and Uplawmoor to voice anger at plans to build on the greenbelt and protected urban green space.

While plans to build six houses on protected greenbelt land in Moray Gardens were refused after residents showed councillors their disapproval with a poster protest, the days two other protests were not as successful.

At Ayr Road/Cheviot Drive residents showed their disapproval with posters — but to no avail as a proposal for 64 residential units on the last remaining piece of greenbelt land visible from Mearns Cross went ahead.

This could mean a three story block of flats will tower over existing bungalows on Cheviot drive.

The 44 executive villas, 14 flats and six detached bed-sit style, so-called granny flats are part of an application by developer Stewart Milne.

Uplawmoor residents were also left dismayed as three new wind turbines were approved, the highest of which will be 65 metres high.

Many activists attended yesterday’s planning committee meeting at council headquarters in what one activist described as a “silent protest”.

Grace McArthur — a green candidate for the upcoming council elections — was disappointed that councillors Iain McAlpine and Alistair Carmichael refused to address the crowd in Newton Mearns after surveying the site and prior to the meeting.

She told The Extra: “It is incredibly disrespectful that the councillors won’t even acknowledge the people who took the time out of their day to come out here today”.

Andrew Kidd, the man behind the www.save-the-green-belt.org.uk website, believes the protest was indicative of the “phenomenal, unanimous support of the save the greenbelt campaign”.

“We insist the candidates state prior to the elections their stance on this issue and their commitment to standing with the public against building on greenbelt”.

Local man Jim Scott felt the decision showed that the “people of Newton Mearns are being ignored”.

“It’s a travesty of democracy. The council seems determined to do away with the last remaining bits of greenbelt in East Renfrewshire”.

Margaret Hamilton, who has lived in the area for more than 40 years, believes she is starting to see “the end of Newton Mearns as we know it”.

“This is just the start — if the MIR goes ahead the sewage system won’t be able to cope, traffic will bottle neck and the schools are already at capacity. It will no longer be a leafy suburb but just another East Kilbride”.

The proposals in the Main Issues Report could mean an expansion of East Renfrewshire’s population by 25 per cent, with applications for 4,000 new homes, combined with 3,000 already approved.

East Renfrewshire council will hold another consultation in October, and say nothing will be decided until 2014.