A panel of experts will put forward the case for the unique £500 million Owenstown development at a public hearing in South Lanarkshire next week.
The three-day hearing, before a Scottish Government Reporter, will investigate the decision by South Lanarkshire Council in April last year to reject the Hometown Foundation’s application for Planning Permission in Principle for Owenstown which had been scheduled for 400 acres of a 2,000 acre site near Rigside in the Douglas Valley.
The project was first announced more than five years ago and would create 3,200 homes and up to 10,000 jobs without the need for public funding. There would also be offices, restaurants and shops, land and buildings for industry, a hotel and a care home, as well as two new primary schools and one new secondary school. The Foundation also plan to create a new technology and innovation centre to develop new ideas to harness the potential of emerging technologies, locking in sustainable employment to the local area.
Since the plans were announced there has been significant interest from companies wanting to set up business in the town’s industrial zones. Plans for a distillery and craft brewery are already well advanced.
The town would be owned and managed on a co-operative basis by its residents and all surplus funds generated would be reinvested in the community instead of being taken out by property developers or landowners. The principle of Owenstown is based on social reformer Robert Owen's ideas at nearby New Lanark 200 years ago.
South Lanarkshire councillors used the recommendation of planning officials to reject the proposal mainly because it was not part of the area’s Development Plan which was adopted in 2009. The Plan itself is now the subject of a consultation process and is due to be updated this Spring to take account of changing circumstances, including the economic climate, housing and employment needs.
Among those giving evidence at the hearing at Rigside Community Centre will be will be the former Director General of the International Co-operative Alliance, Dr Iain Macdonald. He is expected to highlight the global significance of the project which could become a showpiece for the co-operative movement around the world.
Also there will be the Hometown Foundation Project Director Bill Nicol who will outline the unique nature of the development and the economic and social benefits it would bring to the area. He believes the project is crucial for the future of the local Clydesdale economy.
The Appeal Hearing will be held in public at Rigside Community Centre from 10am – 4.30pm on Tuesday 20th, Wednesday 21st and Thursday 22nd January 2015.