East Dunbartonshire MP John Nicolson has branded the approval this week of an application to convert a historic house in Bishopbriggs into a care home as a “dreadful decision.”
The go-ahead for Huntershill House, a former home of Thomas Muir, to be turned into a 42-bedroom care home was recommended by East Dunbartonshire Council’s planning board on Tuesday.
SNP MP Mr Nicolson, who has been opposed to the sale, tweeted last night: “Dreadful decision. The plans are shockingly bad.”
He added that the agreed price of £140,000 with developer Brian Gray for the 250-year-old house was “an outrage.”
Previously, Mr Nicolson had called on Historic Environment Scotland to intervene to protect the building.
In response, Councillor Alan Moir, Convener of Development and Regeneration, said: “As Huntershill House is a listed building, it is for the proposed purchaser to work on the design proposal and liaise with Historic Scotland to obtain its agreement.
“If and when that is in place - and if planning consent is granted and any outstanding legal issues resolved - the Council
will be able to conclude the sale.
“The proposed disposal includes a conservation burden which has been secured as part of the conditions of sale.”
Huntershill House has been on Historic Environment Scotland’s Buildings at Risk Register for years. Poor-quality extensions added in the 1960s and 70s will be demolished under the plans and replaced by new two-storey additions.
Tuesday night’s approval comes with conditions including an instruction that signs must be installed to indicate it was Thomas Muir’s home.
The condition stated: “Prior to the commencement of works on site details of proposed signage and information boards relating to the house’s former resident Thomas Muir shall be submitted for the written approval of the Planning Authority. Thereafter these signs shall be installed and maintained as finally approved.”
Councillor Moir added: “The Huntershill House site was marketed as a development opportunity from November 2011-January 2012 and also September-November 2012. “A number of enquiries were received, but no formal offers.
“The Council later received two offers - both of which were fully considered.
“East Dunbartonshire Council’s Development and Regeneration Committee agreed at a meeting on 28 January 2014 to progress with the sale of
Huntershill House and associated land.
“As the sale is commercially sensitive it would inappropriate to comment on specifics, except to emphasise that the Council is committed to
achieving best value.
Muir, known as the Father of Democracy, lived at Huntershill House with his parents from around 1765 and it was from there that he began his extraordinary political reform campaigns which saw him convicted of sedition in 1793. He was transported to Australia but he escaped and went to France where he was acclaimed as a hero by the Revolution before he died at Chantilly in 1799.
The report to the planning board from officials said: “The proposal will restore a productive use to a building of historical interest and ensure its long term future. The proposed change of use and extensions will be compatible with residential amenity, cause no harm to road safety and result in no significant harm to biodiversity or significant trees.
“The application is therefore recommended for approval.”
The council received 19 letters of objection to the application and none in support. Most of the objections were by neighbours against the scale of the development but one objection said that “the marketing of the property was not carried out correctly and the price accepted for it is too low and as such represents poor value for council tax payers” – an objection that was not accepted as ‘value’ is not a planning issue.
According to the report, there is possible contamination of the Huntershill House area, which will have to be remedied by the developer.
The report states: “The council’s contaminated land officer has been consulted on the proposals and has confirmed that due to the previous use of part of the site as a quarry there is the potential for contamination. A condition is therefore recommended to require this to be investigated and, if necessary, remediated.”