Mike Vickers' Blog

December 24, 2011

Linlithgow – The Wallace Lands Proposal

Today it is Christmas Eve – good will to all men (and women of course).  The discussion on the Wallace Lands proposal  is now at 117 contributions  – a very fair number for a Linked-In Group (though still far short of a Leaders a& Thinkers group that I subscribe to that is up to 2968 contributions) and it may be worthwhile taking stock. Sorry my stock taking – you may disagree with it but then it’s a time of good will to all men!

  • Wallace Lands has parachuted in to develop a piece of land situated at Junction 3 on the M9 motorway.  Jason Wallace at a discussion with the Civic Trust made no bones about it; they are in to make money and that’s why they chose Linlithgow – not Winchburgh or Whitecross but Linlithgow – it’s a desirable place for middle class people to take up roots in central Scotland, not least because there’s a great free academy, it’s in easy commuting to Edinburgh and the airport
  • The proposal is not as Boghall east, just a retail park centred on a smallish supermarket but a whole development – retail park with larger supermarket and 600 houses in two phases.  The proposal would in effect create a suburb of Linlithgow analogous to Linlithgow Bridge
  • There is no doubt that the proposal is contrary to the existing West Lothian Local plan which has Linlithgow as an area of restraint.  The SESPlan has at the request of the Civic Trust removed the word ‘restraint’ ; but as Alan Brown points out restraint remains until the new Local Plan is approved which is not due till 2014 at the earliest
  • Another aspect that has been touched on in discussions has been that any such development at Junction 3 would stand out on the horizon.  Fortunately or unfortunately Linlithgow is constrained between the Bathgate Hills to the south and the Flint Hills to the north and without very careful planning any new development is going to be obtrusive
  • A key aspect of the proposal is the making of junction 3 up to four way.  Wallace Lands sell this as a benefit to the whole Linlithgow community but it would seem to be a necessary component of their overall proposal.  Jason Wallace stated that making up the junction is planned for the start of the development – but this contrasts to the item in the SESPlan for the developer to undertake it in 2025
  • Wallace Lands make the case that their development would be advantageous to the Town as a whole with 600 more residents to boost the economy.  This is unproven.  They also state that the proposal will generate jobs both during the development and in the Retail park once the development is complete; this is clearly true but whether these jobs are jobs for the local residents is again unproven
  • Jason Wallace at the meeting with the Civic Trust tabled a paper comparing their proposal with the Civic Trust Vision for 2010 -2030 with the intention of bringing out the similarities and there are undoubtedly some.  The Civic Trust vision recognises the inevitability of continued development of the Town; hence the removal of ‘restraint’ from the Local Plan, and this includes some houses at the east end of the Town.  The Vision also recognises the need for a new primary school in the area which the Wallace Proposal skates around.
  • However the Civic Trust Vision is for a controlled development throughout the whole of the Town and this is in contrast to the Wallace Proposal which is localised to the area round Junction 3.
  • A key unknown is the effect that a new supermarket at Junction 3 would have on the existing Tesco supermarket at the Regent Centre.  The assumption of most discussion items is that Tesco’s would vacate the Regent Centre losing an important anchor in the High Street.  Alan McMaster argues that the anchor is of no import – the ground could be cleared and converted into a nice park area with car park which would open up the High Street and the Palace to a wider visitor public.
  • So far as I have gleaned until very recently there have been few contributions as to what we hope for for the High Street and this reflect s back on what we hope for the future of the Town itself.  It is clear that the Civic Trust is right, even in these financially strained times, the Town will develop as witnessed by the enormous effect being put in by Wallace Lands to get buy in from the community for their proposal.
  • An informal meeting of Wallace Land Linked-Iners met last week to consider not only consider the Wallace Land proposal but also the more general development of the Town and future meetings are planned.  In parallel John Aitken, Chairman of the Civic Trust has offered to coordinate community views.  Some coming together would be advantageous
  • Alan Mitchell has made the comment that Wallace Lands has every right to make their proposal, as has the farmer to get the best price he can from the sale of his land.  That is the capitalist society we live in.  And while the Wallace Lands proposal is contrary to the Local Plan, I understand it is the duty of any Planning Authority to take forward planning applications rather than to sit in judgement on them – it is up to objectors to object if they wish.
  • A number of contributions have made the case that the Wallace Lands proposal will be limited to seeking outline planning application.  Given approval Wallace Lands will then seek individual developers for the supermarket, the hotel, the houses etc and whose individual objectives we are likely to have less influence than on Wallace Lands itself.
  • At this stage we await the formal planning application by Wallace Lands and once made it is up to all of us to review the application in detail and make our own submission to the Planning Authority.  It is clear that the Wallace Lands proposal has been well thought out as a commercial development but is it the right plan for Linlithgow as a thriving town?  I suggest the  Civic Trust’s Vision is more in keeping with the Town as it is, but the Civic Trust does not fund raising powers on its own.   And would the Town be worse off if only part of the Wallace Lands plan were to take place? (sorry I have lost that contribution)

Happy Christmas to all contributors.  The New Year will be very interesting for the Town.

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