In January 2010, Bishopbriggs Community Council appointed four ‘Community Champions’ to ensure the views of local people are heard as Muse Developments makes its plans for the future Bishopbriggs Town Centre.
Community Champion John Dickson, who owns Poppies newsagent and Bishopbriggs Post Office, has resigned in protest over Muse’s insistence that the town centre redevelopment will include a large supermarket.
The Community Champions have consulted widely with Bishopbriggs residents, and Mr Dickson reported that the most prevalent view expressed was that people did not want a large new supermarket. He has said that Muse insisted the proposed supermarket would be built “whether the community wants it or not.”
Commenting, Jo said:
“John Dickson is a respected member of the community and passionately committed to getting the best deal for the people of Bishopbriggs, so I was deeply concerned to hear that he felt he had been forced into a position where he must resign his position on the Champions Group.
“It is shocking that Muse appears to be refusing to allow the community to have any say over such a major aspect of the development of the town centre.
“I am calling for a meeting between Muse, the Council and the Champions Group to urgently examine the level of community involvement in the plans and address what seems to be a lack of commitment from Muse to genuine consultation with local people.”
In a letter to the Bishopbriggs Herald, John Dickson wrote:
I was asked to get involved as a ‘People’s Champion’ along with other ‘representatives’ to channel the views of the people of Bishopbriggs on the major redevelopment of our town centre to the developers and the council, via the planning authorities.
We sought the views of as many people as we could through various methods, including a very well attended workshop where many and varied ideas were given by members of the community.
The one constant view given by almost everyone was opposition to the imposition of another large supermarket which is generally perceived to be completely unnecessary and would undoubtedly dominate and change the nature and character of the town centre.
Our group worked hard at trying to find alternatives to the supermarket including bringing an established, professional hotelier to m meetings with the council’s planning consultant and the developers.
Our idea was to at least dilute and possibly reduce the scale and impact of the supermarket.
The developers appear to have rejected the idea.
After our last meeting with the council’s chief planning official and planning consultant I decided to resign as a ‘People’s Champion’ after it was reiterated that “the supermarket offer will be part and parcel of Bishopbriggs town centre” and “no matter how many people object to it, we can discuss it all we like, but it is going to happen whether the community wants it or not.”
I’m not prepared to continue acting as an unpaid planning consultant knowing the views and wishes of the community will be ignored.
I would urge our Councillors to listen to their constituents.
He also told the paper, “The supermarket is going to be as big as the one at St Rollox Centre. It will kill the town centre. The one constant view given by almost everyone we spoke to was opposition to the imposition of another large supermarket. I was hoping to have an impact and make the supermarket smaller, but it is not to be as the decision has already been made. I felt as if I was being used as a bit of a prop and I was not prepared to continue acting as an unpaid consultant knowing the views and wishes of the community will be ignored.”
The text of Jo Swinson’s letter to Muse Developments appears below:
Senior Planning Consultant
19 St. Vincent Place
1st November 2010
Dear Mr. Woodrow
Bishopbriggs Town Centre Development: Community Champions
I was deeply concerned to read in the Bishopbriggs Herald this week that John Dickson, one of the four ‘Community Champions’ appointed by Bishopbriggs Community Council to present the views of local people to Muse as it develops its detailed plan for the redevelopment of Bishopbriggs Town Centre, has resigned from the Champions group.
Mr Dickson states in his letter to the local paper, a copy of which I have enclosed, that “it was reiterated that ‘the supermarket offer will be part and parcel of Bishopbriggs town centre’ and ‘no matter how many people object to it, we can discuss it all we like, but it is going to happen whether the community wants it or not.’”
In its Consultation Report published in April 2009, Muse stated that it had agreed that “a significant level of community consultation be carried out in relation to the development that Muse proposes.” Muse’s Regional Director, Steve Turner, has previously said that “We feel it is important their [the community's] views are taken into account as we progress with the project.” (Evening Times, 5th March 2009).
I therefore find it appalling that the people who have been appointed specifically to consult with the local community and input their views into the planning process have been told that they can have no say in such a major aspect of the development proposals.
I understand from the Champions group that Muse asked them to sign a document agreeing that they would be consulted on the part of the plan relating to the community hub, but not all of the other aspects of the development. Dominic Notarangelo, Chair of Bishopbriggs Community Council, redrafted the document and sent it back to Muse several months ago but received no response. Sadly, this would appear to suggest that Muse’s efforts at consultation with the local community have been tokenistic, and that the company has been blocking attempts by the Community Champions to engage in real consultation on the vast majority of the content of the detailed planning application.
I have been informed since last week’s meeting of East Dunbartonshire Council’s Planning Board that a section 75 agreement is due to be signed shortly and that this agreement may allow for the Champions group to be involved in the ‘design process’ for the whole site and not just for the community hub element. I will be eager to see whether this includes the plans for a large new supermarket, or whether this, as suggested by Mr Dickson’s comments, remains strictly off limits.
I would appreciate it if you would agree to meet with me to discuss this matter further, and in particular to talk about how the Champions group can be involved in the planning process going forward.
Please do not hesitate to contact me should you require any further information.
Jo Swinson MP