By Alex Dowdalls

Council planners have come in for stinging criticism in a report from the Scottish Government which accused the council of having “abandoned” their local development plan.

Councillors on the planning committee were asked to note the contents of a report on the issue, and the Scottish Government’s comments, when they met last Wednesday.

But veteran councillor Bailie Denis Agnew refused to do so, and said he was angered by the lack of background from the planning team as to why the council had come in for such fierce criticism.

The report should have been the opportunity to showcase the council’s “achievements and improvements” in 2016/17, but instead has courted controversy and fierce debate.

Scottish Government officials told WDC: “Your local development plan was seven years old at the end of the reporting period. It is noted that you have abandoned the replacement and commenced preparation of a new plan.”

It was on this basis that the council received a damning “red mark” from the government.

The government’s red, amber and green ratings are based on evidence provided within “performance markers” reports. Where no information or insufficient evidence has been provided by the council, a red mark is dished out.

It is the third successive year that West Dunbartonshire Council has received a red mark from the Scottish Government for its local development plan (LDP), and is the sixth red mark overall since 2012, when the process began by the Scottish Government.

Pamela Clifford, planning and building standards manager, told the committee: “We received 10 green, four amber and one red rating from the Scottish Government in the annual performance markers report.

“When the Scottish Government examine our performance, they look at the hard facts. We have to accept the red mark and adopt a new LDP. 

“The report is a fair reflection and it is where we are. The team is working very hard to set up a new LDP. We have to move on as the Scottish Government are not going to change their position.”

The report both praised and highlighted aspects of the council’s planning performance framework within the past year, with the red mark standing out.

In the long-running dispute, councillors previously voted to restart the LDP process to avoid accepting changes the Scottish Government tried to impose, opening up greenbelt land at Duntiglennan Fields for housing development.

Bailie Agnew said: “It looks as we’ve taken the decision to abandon the LDP. That’s wrong, totally wrong. 

“In my view the comments fall short of an explanation. I want to know the reason why we received this. This report is not a true reflection.”

Labour councillor Gail Casey said: “It is a major concern that the Scottish Government are saying we are irresponsible. We need a further explanation as to why we have abandoned the LDP.”

But Labour colleague, Councillor Lawrence O’Neill, welcomed the report as former planning chairman. : “It is a good report and as former chair of planning, I welcome it.”

The council received green marks in 10 categories, including decision making timescales, guidance to help applicants with how they can be accommodated within the Clydebank Business Park, and their contribution to the green network – in particular to the regeneration of the Dumbarton waterfront path.

The committee agreed to continue discussion of the report, ordering planners to come back with an explanation for the red mark.