Mossend Railfreight plan is shunted off track

Local residents protest before the meeting
Local residents protest before the meeting

Councillors have refused to give the go-ahead for the proposed Mossend International Railfreight Park after protests by residents.

More than 1,200 objections were submitted to North Lanarkshire Council over Mossend Railhead operator PD Stirling’s expansion plans.

The firm wanted planning permission for a £260 million national railfreight facility which, they said, would create 2,700 jobs and a further 2,200 construction jobs.

But angry residents in Bellshill who lived next to the proposed site said the facility would ruin their quality of life and remove Bellshill’s last significant open space area.

The residents told a special planning hearing on Monday that the noise, pollution and disturbance created by the development was unacceptable.

Several residents and councillors questioned why the firm had not opted to use vacant land on the Eurocentral site on the other side of the existing Mossend Railhead, rather than the fields around Carnbroe Road.

However director Andrew Stirling said the Eurocentral option wasn’t suitable because the site could not accommodate the 775 metre long sidings required for a national railfreight operation.

The firm tried to counter arguments over the loss of the greenbelt by incorporating a community greenspace area.

They said this would include tree planting and paths for walking and cycling and would cover 39 per cent of the site.

They were supported by council officials who recommended that planning pernission should be granted because the potential economic benefits justified the loss of the greenbelt land.

But residents insisted the disruption to their domestic lives would be unacceptable.

Bellshill councillor Harry McGuigan agreed, moving an amendment that planning permission should be refused and this was backed unanimously by all 23 councillors

PD Stirling had applied to North Lanarkshire Council for planing permission for the £260 million to massively expand their existing facility.

They said the facility would be the only one of its kind in Scotland, would massively boost the local economy and would create 2,700 transport and storage jobs plus another 2,200 construction jobs.

But although council officials gave the scheme the green light, councillors turned it down after objections from more than 1,200 residents.

Representatives from both applicant and objectors pled their cases.

Company director Andrew Stirling said the scheme would make Mossend the UK’s most advanced inland port and would be of lasting benefit to the Lanarkshire economy.

Julian Farrar, director of advisers Ironside Farrar, said there would also be a new community green space facility comprising open space, pathways and cycle paths covering 39 per cent of the site.

But a number of residents who live next to the site outlined the detrimental effect the facility would have on their daily lives.

Teresa Murphy told councillors: “Who is the incursion into greenbelt land acceptable for?

“I would urge you to listen to the people who you were elected to represent, the people who pay their council tax and look after their interests and not those of an applicant who makes unsubstantiated promises.”

Bellshill councillor Harry McGuigan moved an amendment to the officials’ grant recommendation which was unanimously accepted.

Reaction to the decision:

PD Stirling director David Stirling: “We are disappointed that the committee has voted not to approve our plans for Mossend International Railfreight Park. We believe that our proposals represent a great opportunity for the local community and for the railfreight industry and we will now take time to review today’s decision.”

Resident Michael Battersby: “The Eurocentral site on the other side of Mossend Railhead is lying half empty. Why can’t that be used?”

Councillor Harry McGuigan: “Local residents are caught in the jaws of this development. It is too invasive, too intrusive and based on speculative assessment.”

Councillor Harry Curran: “I am delighted with this decision.”

Applicants’ spokesperson Julian Farrar: “All the concerns from the objectors are significantly exaggerated.”

Resident Sharon Hailstones: “We absolutely deserve this.”