We will try to protect greenbelt in East Dunbartonshire vow council chiefs

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GREENBELT sites in East Dunbartonshire may face the chop to find sites for affordable housing, a Scottish Government minister has warned.

East Dunbartonshire Council issued an SOS to ministers over land and funding for new homes last September.

They feared ploughing ahead to meet tough targets could mean offering precious greenbelt areas to developers . . . who may not want to build houses on them anyway.

It halted its Local Development Plan process to allow talks with the Scottish Government on affordable housing land supply and funding.

Due to a lack of Government cash for such homes, it seemed likely the council would have to compel private developers to earmark 25 per cent of new sites for affordable houses.

However, due to a drought of available urban land that would mean laying waste to a “significant” amount of greenbelt.

The council was not arguing against providing affordable housing, but wanted to discuss how many houses were needed and how they would be funded.

A meeting took place with Derek Mackay, minister for local government and planning, earlier this year.

He has since told the council: “You have calculated the housing numbers you feel are needed and identified options for dealing with these.

“However, from what you told me about the level of housing need and the availability of previously developed land, it does appear that some greenfield sites may be required.

“I understand there are difficult decisions to be made in weighing up options that may each have their downsides as well as benefits, but I believe it is for you to take ownership of these decisions.”

The upshot is that the council has been told it must go ahead with the Local Development Plan. The next stage is the publication of a Main Issues Report, which will be consulted on for eight weeks.

The five-year Local Development Plan was due to be adopted by May 2014, but the local government minister has acknowledged this will not be possible.

However, Mr Mackay says further delay is not an option and has called for it to be adopted “by the earliest possible date”.

Council leader Rhondda Geekie said: “The council is committed to ensuring that it has available land in the correct locations to support our desire to deliver a range of affordable housing solutions in mixed communities across East Dunbartonshire.

“To do so we must balance the mix of housing we deliver with the availability of land from developers in locations that are sustainable and for which the council, its partners and developers have the necessary funding to deliver within the lifetime of the local development plan.

“Our Main Issues Report, which I would encourage local people to consider and provide feedback on, sets out our preferred option for balancing the demands of delivering affordable housing in mixed communities on land that we can deliver whilst protecting the greenbelt.

“We are happy to work with developers to consider sites that can support the delivery of affordable housing in sustainable locations.”

The Main Issues Report consultation will run from Monday until November 4.

Visit www.eastdunbarton.gov.uk/MIR

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