The controversial Mossend International Railfreight Park looks set to go ahead at last after a second thumbs-up from the Scottish Government.
The project backers have said it will create nearly 5000 jobs — a figure disputed by critics — but it was stopped in its tracks a year ago after North Lanarkshire Council took legal action.
The Court of Session backed the council’s stance and the issue was sent back to the Government for further consideration, but it has stuck to its original decision.
Peter D Stirling, the family firm which operates Mossend Railhead, is behind the expansion plans which have outraged residents. They are angry at the loss of greenbelt and the impact of traffic and noise.
The council refused planning permission and the Scottish Government reporter who conducted an inquiry was also against it. His recommendation was not acceptd by the Government which upheld an appeal by Stirling, but a second reporter has now said the development should be allowed.
He conceded that the issue was “very finely balanced”, but cited a number of factors in favour of the project including the site now being more accessible due to the completion of the M8 and the lack of a realistic alternative site.
Councillor Paul Kelly, depute leader of the council, was disappointed at the decision and didn’t rule out a further attempt to halt the project.
He said: “We listened to our communities who completely opposed the further development of the Mossend facility.
“More than 1,000 written objections were submitted, several petitions were put forward and all parties in this council took on board the significant strength of feeling by local people that this large-scale development would have a detrimental impact on their lives and on the local landscape and green space.
“Although the reporter acknowledges the residential environment and natural heritage between Bellshill and Coatbridge will be diminished, the sheer weight of the railfreight park’s economic benefits appears to have been the deciding factor. Our local communities will be devastated that local, democratic decision-making has not been taken into account.
“The council will be reviewing the decision in detail and will explore all available options.”
Bellshill Tory councillor Colin Cameron was also angry at the outcome. He said “This decision will not only bring more disruption to areas that have only recently recovered from the construction of the new M8, but more industrial traffic and, consequently, pollution to the residential areas around North Road.”