by a Newsnet reporter
Local residents in Stepps, Chryston, Moodiesburn and Auchinloch to the north-east of Glasgow are protesting about proposals to build thousands of new homes in the area.
The area is protected greenbelt land, designated as such to ensure that the urban areas of Glasgow, Cumbernauld and Coatbridge remain separated from one another by corridors of open countryside. The residents claim that the proposed development will destroy the character of their villages, causing greater strains on already overloaded rail services, greater traffic, and will cause serious damage to wildlife.
The district is home to a colony of water voles, a protected species which is classified as seriously endangered in Scotland. Nearby Hugganfield and Drumpellier lochs host the largest concentration of the animal in West Central Scotland.
In 2009, a campaign to prevent development in the area was successful, the campaign was supported by local SNP councillor Frances McGlinchey. Ms McGlinchey invited Mike Russell MSP, then Minister for the Environment, out to see the village and to meet locals. Mr Russell was presented with a biodiversity study carried out by Dr Halcyon Martin of Auchinloch Community Council showing how special Auchinloch is and why it merited protection.
Hundreds of objections to development in Auchinloch were received by North Lanarkshire Council, which amended the development plan to exclude the lovely fields in Auchinloch.
However recently the Scottish Government announced that it would give the developers the right to appeal against the local development plan. If the developers’ appeals are successful over 8000 new homes could be built across 39 sites in the district. Campaigners now face a new fight to ensure that the development does not go ahead. Much of their anger is directed at the Scottish Government, which has overruled the local decision taken after the previous protests. The district saw strong gains for the the SNP at the Holyrood election earlier this year. Some local SNP activists feel the party has shot itself in the foot locally.
The local Labour party, which previously supported the development, has seized on the issue and now has come out in support of the local opposition, much to the chagrin of local SNP councillor Ms McGlinchey. “They used to call me a NIMBY because of my opposition to the development,” said Ms McGlinchey wryly, “now they’re calling me a greenbelt wrecker.”
Ms McGlinchey continues to work to oppose the development.
Stepps Community Council will hold a meeting at 8pm on Monday, August 15 in Stepps Cultural Centre, to discuss the community campaign to oppose the developers and to hear opposition from local residents.