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May 31, 2011

Broken promises

When land values were soaring and there was still no end in sight to the booming house market, developers were in the habit of making all manner of grandiose promises to communities if it meant securing local support for planning applications. One small community on the edge of Stirling have spent three years working up detailed plans based on a developer’s commitments to them.  Now he won’t even return their calls

Kaiya Marjoribanks, Stirling Observer Wednesday

CONTROVERSIAL plans for a 500-house development in Plean are being fiercely criticised by former supporters.  In January 2009 Stirling Council’s planning panel was split over a decision on the application to develop a site on farmland west of Cadger’s Loan/President Kennedy Drive and south of the M9 motorway at Pleanbank Farm.

But the plans went through on the casting vote of the chair, subject to a satisfactory Section 75 legal agreement being reached. Council officials had said it was contrary to planning policies and there were problems with extending East Plean Primary School to cope with any influx of families to the new homes.

Concerns were also raised about the feasibility of the regeneration package, which would be expected to cover a new village centre (including library and health facilities), school extension, streetscaping and a playpark.

Last year, however, relations broke down between investors Waveband Properties and Plean Community Development Trust directors over several millions of pounds pledged to help invigorate the village, but which the trust said had been chopped in half.

Now the trust is preparing to speak against the development at a special “pre-determination hearing” before the planning panel next month. Plean Community Council has also voted to object to the application.

Tommy Brookes, speaking on behalf of the trust, told the Observer there had been “too many broken promises”. He added: “Members of the trust were first approached by Waveband in 2007. But we still don’t know who or what Waveband is. As far as we know, the main developer lives in Australia, but Waveband is a company registered in the British Virgin Islands. Any communication to the trust has come from a Jersey address in the Channel Islands.

“Why should Plean now believe anything from Waveband when it has never carried out anything promised in the past. Two years ago Waveband promised the trust all legal expenses for involvement in the planning application would be paid. But the trust had to pay its own legal fees – almost leaving it penniless.”

“Waveband also promised a direct legal agreement with the trust for carrying out a regeneration package. But in the draft Heads of Terms Waveband submitted to the council, it has cut the trust right out of the process. Waveband promised the trust that a community development worker would be funded. Instead, the trust has had to pay itself.”

“Any mention of a new school in Plean is irrelevant. Plean will get a new primary school anyway – through the council’s insurance policy, not through Waveband.

“In January 2009 Waveband promised the planning panel a £6 million regeneration package for Plean village – on top of the school, roads and other works sought by the council. Waveband told the trust in April 2010 that this would be cut in half. Waveband is now telling the council there is £6million for everything, including the school and all the council requirements.

“Latest Waveband documents submitted to Stirling Council show that people in Plean will get the small change. The trust will be lucky to get a tin shed. Waveband just wants planning permission to sell the site. This is why for the past year Plean Community Trust has passed repeated statements that it wants nothing to do with Waveband’s application.”

As the Observer went to press local agents for Waveband were not available for comment.

In recent correspondence to council officials, however, Waveband’s lawyers said the current housing market had made some changes necessary and asked that decision makers “look at the proposals in the cold light of 2011 and not the far sunnier development climate that prevailed in December 2007 when the application was first registered with the council”.

They also said community trust representatives had “steadfastly refused” to meet Waveband’s project team to discuss “how the regeneration package might still be delivered in a post-credit crunch environment”. The trust, however, claims Waveband has made no such approach.