Former playing fields to be sold to housing developer

The site of the former Williamwood High School playing fields.
The site of the former Williamwood High School playing fields.

A plan to sell the former Williamwood High School playing fields has been agreed by East Renfrewshire’s councillors.

Elected members met in private to discuss the sale of the 3.5-acre site at Drumby Crescent in Clarkston.

It’s been revealed that councillors were asked to approve a £1.75m bid from Surplus Property Solutions despite having received an offer of £5.15m.

It comes after an independent survey by the Valuation Office Agency valued the land at £2m in both June and December last year.

An East Renfrewshire Council spokesman said: “Ensuring openness and transparency for all council decisions is of paramount importance, whilst also prioritising achieving best value for our residents.

“In line with the council’s usual procedures and the Local Government (Scotland) Act, this paper was discussed in private to allow councillors to scrutinise commercially sensitive information.

“This is standard practice for councils when dealing with any commercial sale of land, with legislation in place to allow for relevant papers to be exempt.

“Following a high level of scrutiny and lengthy discussion, all councillors present agreed to progress with the sale of a site which was previously part of the old Williamwood High School playing fields. As with all disposal of property, once the sale is complete the purchaser and price paid become a matter of public record.

“With any commercial bid, various conditions are often attached which ultimately can result in the final sale price achieved by the council being significantly lower than the gross value offered.

“All factors are always taken into account before proceeding with the offer which provides best value for the council.”

Sixteen parties submitted bids for the site, with 13 including plans for new homes, and three others proposing a care home, a discount food store and a residential retirement scheme.

Officers then drew up a final shortlist which included a £2.1m offer from Akela for 23 units, a £1.25m bid from Laurel Homes for 27 flats, a £1.2m offer for 24 houses from Mactaggart and Mickel and the proposal to build 37 units from Surplus Property Solutions.

A report had initially gone in front of the council’s cabinet members for approval on March 15 but the Conservative group called it in to be discussed by the full council over concerns about the sale.

Tory group leader Stewart Miller initially said that making a decision on the sale had become “murkier” during the meeting.

His Conservative colleague, Cllr Jim Swift said: “We should probably not even consider putting this site up for sale.”

But following the private meeting on Wednesday, Cllr Miller insisted that he was now “quite content” about the sale.

In the report, the council’s director of environment, Andrew Cahill, said: “Fifteen of the offers were subject to conditions covering planning, planning gain contributions, phasing/timescales for phased payments, access and further third-party land acquisition.

“Only one party provided an unconditional offer which was free from suspensive conditions.

“The cabinet is asked to delegate to the director of environment, in consultation with the chief officer (legal and procurement) to progress and complete the disposal of 3.5-acres of land at Drumby Crescent, Clarkston for £1.75m to Surplus Property Solutions for a residential development.”

Following the councillors’ agreement to dispose of the land, council officers will now move ahead with plans strike a deal.