South Scotland MSP Colin Smyth has called for a “common sense compromise” over the use of former council land at Parkhead in Noblehill, which was recently sold to Dumfries and Galloway Housing Partnership (DGHP) who plan to develop the site for housing.
The land was originally declared surplus to requirements by the council back in 2006, has been subject to previous proposals for housing and is designated for housing within the Local Development Plan (LDP). However, local residents have now expressed concerns over the possible loss of recreational land if the site is developed for housing by DGHP.
Colin Smyth believes that if DGHP do decide to pursue proposals to build housing in the area, requirements set out in the council’s Local Development Plan guidance offers an opportunity for a possible way forward if DGHP pursue housing in the area. The guidance states that “no development will be permitted on these sites until a Masterplan that includes the area covered by both the sites (DFS.H3 Noblehill and NFS.H7 Brownrigg Loaning) has been prepared”.
The land sold to DGHP forms only a very small part of the land to be covered by the masterplan (namely the Greenbrae and Parkhead Playing fields). The South Scotland MSP believes that this leaves scope for the playing fields and park to be retained in any development, even if some of the housing has to be built on neighbouring land, not just the area purchased from the council.
The South Scotland MSP has written to Dumfries and Galloway Council and Dumfries and Galloway Housing Partnership urging them to work with the local residents group – the Noblehill and Parkhead Community Development Association- to develop a masterplan. The Association was recently set up by local residents concerned at the housing development plans.
If the sale of land isn't reversed, he is also urging the council to use the Common Good share of funds raised from the sale of the land to invest in improving recreational facilities in the area. 8.22 acres of the 13.99 acres sold to DGHP is classed as “common good land”. The council- who ultimately own common good land- therefore agreed that almost 60% of the income from the sale should go to the Dumfries Common Good Fund.
Colin Smyth attended a meeting with local residents on Friday (19 August) at Noblehill Community centre to discuss a way forward.
Colin Smyth said, “The challenge for residents is obviously the fact the land is now owned by DGHP and the purchase was funded by the Scottish Government for housing. The Government are therefore also likely to part fund the building of any new homes. If the sale is reversed the money for housing would possibly be lost, although I’ve written to the Housing Minister urging him to ensure that whatever happens with the site, that money should stay within Dumfries for housing”.
“A number of suggestions have been made about a way forward, including the council possibly giving DGHP another piece of land and taking back Noblehill. That would certainly ease residents concerns”.
“If that doesn’t happen and DGHP pursue housing on the site, I still think a common sense compromise can be reached. The land cannot be developed unless a full masterplan for the whole of Noblehill and Brownrigg loaning is prepared by the owners of the land. I have written to the Council and DGHP urging them to ensure that local residents group are fully informed in the development of any such masterplan and have a full say in its contents. Ultimately, the masterplan will need to go before councillors and if doesn’t meet the needs of residents it should be vetoed. I have stressed that DGHP should look at neighbouring land for possible housing not just the small amount they have purchased from the council and crucially I have urged them to retain recreational ground such as pitches”.
“Part of the land sold was common good and the income from that part will be retained by the Dumfries Common Good fund. I think it is only fair that it is reinvested locally in the Noblehill area and one option is to actually improve the recreational facilities in the area for local residents”.
“At the end of the day, with 4000 people waiting on housing waiting list locally people, understand the need for new housing including the local residents. But it is important to locate that housing in areas that have the minimum impact on existing residents and doesn’t lead to the loss of green, recreational land which is all too rare in built up areas these days. That’s why I am committed to working with residents, the council and DGHP to hopefully help find a way forward.”
The Local Development Plan – Non statutory Supplementary Guidance – Masterplan Brief DFS.H3 Noblehill and DFS.H7 Brownrigg Loaning can be read here: