BUSINESS tycoons Sandy and James Easdale are considering taking legal action against a council over a planning application which could cost the local authority £100 million.
Their proposal for a housing development at the former IBM site in Greenock went to Inverclyde planning board on Wednesday but was postponed to allow councillors to go on a visit to the site and to receive a briefing from officers.
Former Rangers directors, the Easdales, who are behind the application along with Advance Construction, want to build 450 houses on the land but planning officials at Inverclyde Council only recommended the proposal be given the go-head for 270.
A bid by the developers for permission in principle for 450 dwellings was deemed excessive by planning bosses because it is 30 above the current limit for the whole Spango Valley site — part of which is owned by the Easdale brothers.
Their spokesman Jack Irvine told The National on Thursday night: “We are consulting our lawyers to scrutinise exactly what is going on with the non elected officials at Inverclyde Council.”
The planning application for the development was first submitted in February 2020 and is worth around a £100m with the potential to create 130 jobs through the construction phase and a further 300 jobs upon completion.
Sources close to the Easdales say they were not informed of the restriction when they submitted the application and if they had been they would not have made it.
“They are mystified that when they put the planning application in nobody raised this matter at all including the council lawyers,” a source said adding that the developers only found out about the 270 limit last month.
“It would all have been fine if the council had told the Easdales and Advance Construction when the application went in that they could only build 270 houses there.
“But they didn’t. They allowed them to continue working away on the application, commissioning architects, doing deals and the costs have mounted up.”
Asked whether they would have made the application had they known they could only build 270 houses, the source said: “Absolutely not. Financially it would not have added up to build that number of houses there.
“And that’s why if it goes to litigation the council could find themselves in very deep water. They have cost two major businesses a huge amount of money. We are talking around £100million.”
At a remote hearing of the planning board on Wednesday councillors voted by five to four to go on a site visit and receive a briefing from officials rather than approve the application on the condition that the number of houses were limited to 270.
A report to the planning board by council officials said the 270 figure represents a pro-rata provision of the dwellings by area within the Spango Valley Priority Place identified by the adopted and proposed Inverclyde Local Development Plans and also identified as acceptable in terms of tested and available capacity by Transport Scotland and the Council as Education Authority.
Councillor Chris McEleny said: “I have real concerns that this £100 million project could be scuppered at a time Inverclyde needs investment, jobs, and housing for young families.”
He added: “Over the past few years the council has been battered for millions by being on the losing end of legal action, I do fear that pending the next meeting after this site visit, when you look at the numbers at stake on this application, the council could be on the end of the latest legal action that could cost millions of pounds which would come directly out of front line services.”
An Inverclyde Council spokesman said: “Like all councils our planning processes are fully open to public scrutiny.
“Reports are made available in advance of meetings for anyone to review and all paperwork in connection with an active planning application is published on the planning portal to be examined.
“Our planning board, even while being conducted online, is open to scrutiny including media, applicants and their agents and members of the public in addition are able to attend online to see the proceedings.
“Mr Irvine should be clear that we have no concerns about scrutiny. In fact, we actively encourage it by having everything done in public.”