Jo and Ross Finnie MSP have urged the Local Government Boundary Commission not to make 42 households in Bishopbriggs into part of Glasgow.
In May 2009, the Boundary Commission published proposals to move the local authority boundary between East Dunbartonshire and Glasgow City to be aligned with Auchinairn Road. Residents of the 42 households in the Princes Gate housing development in Bishopbriggs who would be moved from East Dunbartonshire into Glasgow City are unanimously opposed to the idea.
After vigorous objections from local people in Wallace Drive, Wallace Gate and Wallace Place, the Commission published revised proposals in October which would keep those houses inside East Dunbartonshire. Jo and Ross have submitted their views as part of a public consultation on the plan, urging the Boundary Commission to submit the revised proposals as their final recommendations to Scottish Ministers.
Commenting, Jo said:
“Like the residents of Princes Gate who have campaigned ardently on this issue, I welcomed the revised proposals published by the Boundary Commission in October. Moving 42 households into Glasgow would disrupt the lives of their occupants for no good reason, and no one has offered an explanation as to what benefits it would bring.”
“The Boundary Commission listened to the concerns of those who would be affected when they revised their recommendations, and now they must ensure the proposals do not change again before they are submitted to Scottish Ministers for a final decision.”
Commenting, Ross Finnie said:
“Previously I wrote to the Boundary Commission stating my objections to the original proposals, and I will also be writing to them stating my approval of the revised proposal, which would see the 42 households in Princes Gate remain in East Dunbartonshire.
“The Boundary Commission must ensure that the importance of access to schools, house prices and community connections are at the forefront of the decision and guarantee the revised proposals are submitted unchanged to Scottish Ministers for approval.”
Public consultation on the revised proposals will run until 28 January 2010. Representations should be made by email firstname.lastname@example.org or in writing to Greenacres Review, Local Government Boundary Commission for Scotland, 3 Drumsheugh Gardens, Edinburgh, EH3 7QJ.
The text of Jo’s submission to the consultation appears below.
Local Government Boundary Commission for Scotland
3 Drumsheugh Gardens
21st January 2010
As the Member of Parliament for East Dunbartonshire, I have made representations to you on several occasions to make clear my opposition, and that of many of my constituents, to the Local Government Boundary Commission’s initial proposal to realign the boundary between East Dunbartonshire and Glasgow City local authority areas to follow Auchinairn Road. This change would have moved 42 households in the Princes Gate area of Bishopbriggs which currently belongs to East Dunbartonshire into Glasgow, a change to which the residents of those households are unanimously opposed.
I have warmly welcomed the revised proposals, published in October 2009, which recognised the problems such a move would cause to local residents and proposed that the Princes Gate area should remain within East Dunbartonshire. However, I am aware that you have not yet made your recommendations to Ministers on the matter. I would urge you to make this revised proposal your final recommendation.
A large number of constituents living in the affected areas, mainly Wallace Drive, Wallace Gate and Wallace Place, have contacted me over the past year to express their opposition to the possibility that they could be moved to within the Glasgow City Council boundaries. I briefly restate below the arguments against the provisional proposals and in favour of the revised proposals.
Concerns of residents
The point that has been made to me time and time again is that, by purchasing a home within East Dunbartonshire, many of my constituents were doing so because they wanted to be part of a local community. This is most obviously reflected in school catchment areas. Many people deliberately chose this place to live because they wanted their children to access the excellent local schools in Bishopbriggs. However, it is so much more than this. Several residents have contacted me because their children attend a denominational school within East Dunbartonshire, and so they have developed close ties with the local church because of its links to the school.
Aside from education, people are worried that they would lose their ability to take advantage of local sports facilities they have used for years, clubs that their children attend, libraries and other community facilities.
Council Tax increases
Many people who have contacted me are concerned about the possibility of an increase in council tax, as Glasgow City Council charges more than East Dunbartonshire. In purchasing their homes, people have to ensure that they are able to cover the costs of running their home, as well as the initial costs of buying it. In these difficult financial times, when we are seeing council tax freezes across the board, I find it objectionable that this group of people would be asked to pay more council tax, which they will not have planned for, and through no fault of their own.
I understand that it is not uncommon for housing estates to lie across two boundaries and so, given the fact that people purchased these particular houses because of the local community, I find it unacceptable that they could now be asked to change at this late stage. As I understand it, the Boundary Commission were made aware of this matter when the developers, Wimpey, began constructing the houses in 2002, however, it was decided this was not a problem.
In 2006, internal guidance changed. The new advice stated that boundaries should follow permanent landmarks, such as a road or a river. It would completely unfair to punish my constituents for this. Having sought advice from the Boundary Commission, the developer marketed the homes in East Dunbartonshire at a higher price than others within the estate. If the Boundary Commission felt that this boundary was problematic, and I have seen no evidence of this being the case, then the matter should have been dealt with when the estate was first built.
Aside from the consequences for my constituents of moving them within the Glasgow boundary, it would also have severe consequences for East Dunbartonshire Council. As an MP, one issue which I am contacted about repeatedly is the lack of affordable housing in the area. If the Commission decides the boundary should be moved, there is a good chance that East Dunbartonshire Council would lose land that has been earmarked for affordable housing. I do not feel this is justified. Local councils have a legal obligation to provide housing for residents, and by removing this land, the Boundary Commission would be removing land that the Council could sell in exchange for social housing.
While I appreciate the Boundary Commission’s new desire to align boundaries with permanent geographical features, I believe the negative consequences outlined above far outweigh any benefit that could be gained from moving the boundary in this case. I therefore hope that your final recommendation to Ministers will be to implement the revised proposals published in October 2009.
Thank you for your assistance in this matter and I look forward to hearing from you at your earliest convenience.
Jo Swinson MP