MIR: lessons have been learned

East Renfrewshire council claims it has learned lessons from a consultation into the future of local greenbelt which received widespread criticism from residents.

In the Main Issues Report (MIR), East Ren council admitted the exercise was “controversial and poorly received by members of the public”.

Of 1403 responses, 1,342 (more than 95 per cent) objected to the MIR’s proposed approach for East Ren greenbelt, with a considerable number voicing their concerns about settlements in Busby, Clarkston, Eaglesham, Newton Mearns and Waterfoot.

Officers will undergo a “lessons learned” programme, to develop a strategy for autumn’s Local Development Plan (LDP) consultation.

The council has called into question the public’s grasp of the proposal, as 90% of responses were submitted on standard letters, pro-formas or petitions — which ERC suggests were campaign-led.

The consultation report stated: “There was a lack of understanding from many members of the general public as to whether they were objecting to a current or proposed planning application or the MIR, which caused some confusion and created administrative difficulty for officers of the planning service.

“It will be important to ensure there is full awareness and understanding of the approach amongst members of the public, elected members and council officers”.

ERC has hit back at claims the council endeavoured to conceal the MIR, and claim the responses were “2-3 times the normal level of response to previous local plan consultation”.

Council leader Jim Fletcher told The Extra: “”We are trying to get a plan we are all comfortable with. Unfortunately, the consultation was skewed by the Conservatives turning it into a political animal during the election.

“We have an open mind and will take into account all responses”.

Campaigner Jim Whyteside believes the consultation report does not make good reading for ERC officials.

He said: “Their preferred option to allow greenbelt development has been rejected by the public.

“It took community activism rather than the actions of ERC to ensure that at least some residents had heard of it.

“I hope they will respect the opinion of those who did respond before making decisions on the greenbelt’s future”.

Opposition councillor Stewart Miller thinks the LDP consultation will not face the same challenges as MIR.

He said: “The council could have used the media and ER magazine more, but they acknowledged that.

“Local people are more clued up about it now — if they want to find out what’s happening they will.

“Now the elections are past and members from all parties are involved in a working group, hopefully politics will be removed from the process”.

All responses are available to view at the council’s Spiersbridge offices.