Affordable housing options explored for Tom Johnston House site after councillors reject offers

Tom Johnston House before it was demolished last year.
Tom Johnston House before it was demolished last year.

The site of East Dunbartonshire Council’s former headquarters may be sold to a developer for affordable housing.

The decision comes after offers for the former Tom Johnston House site in Kirkintilloch were rejected by councillors at a private meeting of the full council last week.

Council chiefs had hoped to attract a buyer, with planning permission already granted early in 2015 for a food store, petrol filling station and restaurant.

After hearing a report from the Depute Chief Executive - Place, Neighbourhood & Corporate Assets at Thursday night’s meeting, councillors agreed to “further explore the potential for affordable housing” on the site.

Afterwards, a spokesperson for the council said: “Elected members acknowledged their disappointment at the options received for consideration following the most recent marketing exercise.”

Council Leader Rhondda Geekie added: “The report to council summarised the offers, with conditions, we had received following our recent marketing exercise and it was clear that those responses did not meet our expectations or aspirations for the site.

“Whilst it is disappointing not to be able to recommend that we accept one of those offers, there was unanimous agreement that we should further explore the development of this site for affordable housing to address the shortage in this area and housing officers have been tasked with taking this forward.”

The decision was taken after councillors heard a report from the Depute Chief Executive – Place, Neighbourhood & Corporate Assets,

Demolition workers tore down the council’s former headquarters at the end of last year.

The building had been left derelict since August 2012 when the council moved to its new home in nearby Southbank Marina.

In a report in the Herald in November last year, residents questioned whether the supermarket plans would benefit the town.

Some slammed the move as a waste of money, while others said they wanted to see the land used to ease a lack of housing in the area,

Thomas Glen, director of development and regeneration, said last year: “The council moved its civic headquarters from Tom Johnston House to the Marina in August 2012, as part of the Corporate Asset Management Programme, to increase efficiency, reduce maintenance costs and achieve savings.

“At its meeting on 25 June 2015, the Council decided to proceed with the demolition of Tom Johnston House following completion of the tender process.

“As previously publicised, work is currently underway on the demolition of the derelict property and it is expected to be completed before Christmas.

“In April, councillors approved a planning permission in principle application for a mixed-use development - including a food store, petrol filling station, restaurant and associated parking - at the former Tom Johnston House site and neighbouring Whitegates Business Park.

“Both the Council and Sim Properties (Whitegates) Ltd still own their respective properties, but the 10-acre joint site is being marketed - potentially paving the way for a major boost for the local economy.”