Owenstown co-operative community rejected by council planning committee

The Hometown Foundation has pledged to find a new site for its proposed co-operative town after councillors rejected its plans to build near New Lanark. On 1 April,...

The Hometown Foundation has pledged to find a new site for its proposed co-operative town after councillors rejected its plans to build near New Lanark.

On 1 April, South Lanarkshire Council dismissed proposals to build Owenstown, a £500m co-operative community, at Rigside in the Douglas Valley. The proposed site was less than ten miles from New Lanark,  where 200 years ago Robert Owen created the community that inspired the project.

In a statement the Hometown Foundation said: “The trustees are likely to appeal the decision to Scottish ministers because of the national significance of the project. However the foundation will now focus its efforts on alternative sites which have already been identified in England and Ireland.”

The foundation has spent the past five years, and millions of pounds, developing plans for a town which would be owned and managed co-operatively, with residents as members and surplus funds reinvested in the community. The proposals at Rigside would have created 3,200 homes for 8,000 people, 6,000 jobs during construction and more than 3000 permanent jobs.

But planning officials told councillors the project, which would have covered 400 acres of the 2,000 acre site, was unsuitable. Their advice was unanimously accepted and the plans rejected.

South Lanarkshire Council’s planning committee found the development was contrary to planning policy at national, strategic and local level. It rejected Owenstown on the grounds that the scale of the development was not required, and had not been justified by the Hometown Foundation.

Councillors were also concerned by the impact on road junctions around Lanark, limited public transport serving the site, adverse impact on the landscape and diversion of resources from Lanark, Rigside and Coalburn.

There were objections from the Forestry Commission, Scottish Natural Heritage and Lanark Business Group, which said the development would adversely affect businesses in Lanark and Biggar.

Michael McGlynn, head of planning and building standards at the council, said: “It would fail to meet the over-arching objective of policy at all of those levels of encouraging sustainable economic growth and regeneration within an improved urban and rural environment.”

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