Anger as diggers roll in to disputed area of greenbelt

JCB on greenbelt land
JCB on greenbelt land

Diggers moved in on an area of fiercely debated greenbelt land without any prior warning, leaving residents shocked.

Six foot by six foot holes were dug up in the Redmoss Farm area of Milton of Campsie in order for the developer to carry out site investigations.

Locals are worried about possible accidents occurring due to lack of signage alerting dog walkers and other land users and question whether the developer is trying to pre-empt the planning process.

Bellway Homes own the land and hope to build 80 houses on the site, although no plans have been submitted to East Dunbartonshire Council as of yet.

Secretary of Milton of Campsie Greenbelt Preservation, Alan Harris, said: “This is a highly charged situation which could explode at any moment. At the very least they ought to stick up a sign, the machines are dangerous.

“Local people are rightly concerned from a safety point of view. It’s very provocative.”

A campaign to save the green belt is currently ongoing and the fate of the site is out for public consultation in the proposed Local Development Plan.

Sasha O’Neil, of Bellway Homes, said: “We have to do this prior to the planning process to find out if the ground is suitable.

“We’re certainly not looking to do anything untoward. It’s a normal part of the planning process.

“All the work that was carried out has now been backfilled and we are confident that there are no holes but I have a colleague going up there after the work finishes to make sure that there are no health and safety hazards after contractors carried out work on our behalf.”

Denis Wray, of Marley Way, said: “My concern was the damage to the environment, I’m no expert but the whole area is quite unusual, semi-wetland, so I would expect some unusual species.”

The area is popular with dog walkers and Bellway Homes acknowledged that the “informal pathways” had been maintained over the years but did not have any safety concerns related to the work carried out by contractors, Johnson Poole and Bloomer, over the past few days.

Local resident, Jim Thompson, said: “I was alerted to a machine within the area behind my house by the engine noise. There were no warning signs anywhere around this area, no barrier or taped off area.

“I had retuned to my garden when the JCB moved to another nearby area which is beside a well used walkway and no barriers or signage were erected to warn persons walking in the area.

“This area is used by numerous dog walkers with dogs off the leads as it is safe to allow them to run about. There was no consideration for the safety of any person, including the persons taking the samples, and it appeared they were in a hurry to get the job done and leave.”

Sasha O’Neil added that they had to undertake a number of tests with “due diligence” before any plans could be formally submitted to East Dunbartonshire Council. She said that there would be a substantial period of negotiation with both the council and local stakeholders.