Church demands answers over flats saga

Councillor Michael Ross
Councillor Michael Ross
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A PRIEST is demanding an inquiry into the ‘suspicious and disturbing’ behaviour of two councillors after his church was refused planning permission for a housing development in Motherwell.

North Lanarkshire Council’s planning committee voted against plans to demolish Holy Trinity Church’s dilapidated hall and replace it with a block of flats - despite planning officials and committee convener Jimmy Coyle being in favour of it.

Committee member Paul Kelly was forced to reject claims that fellow Motherwell councillor Michael Ross - whose father, Patrick, objected to the plans - had put pressure on him to oppose the development.

However, the pair have given conflicting accounts of a discussion they had before the crucial meeting.

Councillor Kelly said he was approached by his colleague, but Councillor Ross - who is not on the planning committee - maintained that Councillor Kelly had raised the issue with him.

At the meeting Councillor Kelly moved that the application be refused and after a vote it was.

Holy Trinity Church, which belongs to the Scottish Episcopalian Church, has been considering plans for the site for almost 10 years and says the sale of ground for flats is essential to fund repairs to the church building.

After comments from the two councillors appeared in a Sunday newspaper, Rev Alan Wylie said: “Their statements are totally at odds with each other.

“For the sake of the integrity and credibility of both, senior members of the Labour group might wish to question Councillors Ross and Kelly to establish who is telling the truth and, perhaps more importantly, who is not and why not.”

Plans for the Crawford Street site were opposed by neighbouring residents including Councillor Ross’s father who lives in Hamilton Road.

Full story in this week’s Motherwell Times, out now.