EIGHT landowners must agree to sell their land before a new road can be built into Bowling, opening up regeneration opportunities at the former Exxon site.

Land ownership, flooding, contamination and access to the former oil and gas site have been outlined as the main challenges facing chiefs working on the Clyde Valley City Deal — a £1.13 billion regeneration project along the river.

The Bowling project would see £27.9 million invested in the old Exxon site to create an industrial and commercial centre 20,000m2 in size. It would also see a new road built providing an alternative route in and out of West Dunbartonshire.

But at a full meeting of West Dunbartonshire Council last Wednesday, councillors heard at least two landowners, situated along the route of the proposed road, have stated they are not willing to part with their land.

Jim McAloon, head of regeneration at the local authority, said the council would only apply for a compulsory purchase order as a last resort.

He said: “I know some of the local landowners will not be keen to enter into a dialogue about selling, but to have the access [to the Exxon site] and the alternative road we will need to enter into negotiations.

“I don’t know how those negotiations would go. There are other avenues in terms of compulsory purchase orders if we don’t get the land. I would be looking to our experts to avoid that where possible. I would be asking how can we design the road to make it less painful for landowners in the area.” Mr McAloon also admitted that the level of contamination at the 31-hectare site is unknown and will remain that way until Exxon permit council officers access to complete their own investigations.

He said the council would only take ownership of the site when Exxon had completed decontamination works, or paid West Dunbartonshire Council to have the works done.

Despite the mounting challenges facing the project, the council chief said the potential benefits of the project far outweigh the risks.

Mr McAloon said the site’s coastal location and its proximity to the A82, Glasgow International Airport and Glasgow meant it would attract businesses from all over the world.

“It will attract key players in advanced manufacturing, logistics and distribution,” he said. “Its size and location opens up other avenues that we were not able to in previous sites that we have been involved in.

“This would attract a significant number of jobs, 700 additional jobs, but importantly it will create that economic activity that will, I believe, contribute the economic growth of the area going forward.” At the meeting councillors were asked to agree the strategic business case for the project and release a further £500,000 to move to the second stage of the planning process.

Independent councillor George Black objected. He said: “We have a site that’s very contaminated, a site we can’t access and a site we don’t own. We have spent almost £100,000 on consultants. Given that we have much more immediate concerns, this is nothing more than complete mismanagement of public funds.” Council leader Martin Rooney said: “The strategic business case is required by the City Deal so that we remain in the process and can access the City Deal funding, but only as and when we are satisfied that all due diligence has been carried out, that risks are identified and managed and that the project ultimately represents good value for money.

“The alternative would be to do nothing, forego the opportunity of City Deal funding and accept that West Dunbartonshire would have a diminished economic future.” Following a prolonged debate West Dunbartonshire councillors approved the project’s strategic business case, which will now be presented to the Clyde Valley City Deal Cabinet for final approval on August 18. Once this has happened consultations with the local community can begin.