Time for a change?

Stewart Miller
Stewart Miller

AS DECISION day looms on Waterfoot Park, several local politicians have criticised the planning process.

Currently, members of the planning committee are excluded from voting on a future application if they have spoken out against the proposal in public.

This is part of the reason councillor Stewart Miller was unable to throw his weight against the Waterfoot decision, which ultimately meant that CALA’s planning application was approved.

The developer’s planning application was given the go-ahead after Chair Kenny Hay issued the casting vote following a 3-3 split among the committee.

Mr Miller, a Busby, Clarkston and Eaglesham councillor, believes there is an inherent juxtaposition between his role as councillor, and his position as a member of the planning committee.

The Conservative told The Extra: “I see it as my job to represent constituents’ views and that is exactly what I did. Therefore I would never had the chance to vote, no matter what I said or did.

However, councillor Miller thinks this contradiction is indicative of Scotland’s planning process.

He continued: “A Scottish government reporter can make decisions and it is possible, indeed probable, that he has never even visited our area, and yet his or her decisions can’t even be appealed.

“There is something wrong with the planning system. This council can make up the rules to sell council-owned, public green spaces, i.e. in the supplementary planning guidance, then the same council grants both planning permission and then passes the sale.

“No public land is safe from developers”.

Labour councillor Ian McAlpine was a member of the planning committee in the previous administration.

The Newton Mearns south representative would have been excluded from any votes relating to Loganswell’s Lifetime Recycling Village, had he remained on the committee, after he voiced his disapproval about the project.

He believes “the system is not very good, I have asked for changes but they have not been agreed by the Scottish government”.

West of Scotland MSP Jackson Carlaw — a Conservative — believes the process is “ridiculous”.

He complained: “Local councillors are now afraid to speak out on behalf of their constituents in fear of being barred when it comes to voting on the big issues.

“This is concentrating power in the hands of unelected officials.

“However, it is not enough to simply blame officials — in the end it is councillors who vote and who must be judged on their votes”.

Eastwood MSP, Labour’s Ken Macintosh, is concerned that the current planning system is yet to fully win the confidence of the community.

He said: “I feel particularly strongly about the gagging of councillors who speak out against proposals.

“It does not seem right that elected representatives who are voted in to stand up for their communities are barred from taking part in important votes simply because they have spoken their mind and highlighted their constituents’ views.

“Frankly such a rule does not seem compatible with democratic local control of planning.”

However, SNP West of Scotland MSP Stewart Maxwell has defended the Scottish government’s process.

He told The Extra: “Councillors are on the planning committee to take up this role in an objective manner.

“They are aware when they join the committee that the decision making process must be taken objectively and fairly.

“This is reflected in the current rules surrounding the ability of members to speak publicly about specific proposals that they must vote on.”