We are aware that a local interest group has issued an array of communications objecting to this £150 million investment in Paisley.  This news update addresses some recent questions and objections.

A primary component of the objectors’ claim is that the development represents suburbanisation of the green space on the boundary of Paisley. The surplus land at Dykebar Hospital is not greenbelt and is land earmarked for development and zoned for housing in the Council’s Adopted and Proposed Local Development Plans. Given this context and planning status – and noting its proximity adjacent to an abundance of greenbelt land – this site provides an opportunity through development to improve connectivity between the town and the adjoining countryside.

Tree Loss and Greenspace
It is incorrect for the objectors to state that 95% of trees, woods and hedges will be removed.

On the contrary, a comprehensive tree planting plan has been prepared with an over-arching strategy that where tree removal is required to facilitate the development, any tree loss will be offset by significant replacement planting.

Importantly, the existing woodland has suffered from lack of pro-active management for well over 50 years, and the conclusion from comprehensive tree surveys is that, if left unmanaged, large swathes of the existing un-managed tree-belt will fail over the next 20-30 years. Therefore, the housebuilders believe that the development and the tree planting strategy are opportunities to protect and enhance the woodland for future generations.

The existing woodland cover is 11.4 hectares. Overall, there is a net loss of 2.56 ha of woodland – just over a fifth of the site – but this excludes the 800 new specimen trees that will be planted on roadsides and pathways providing immediate impact, and over time, a considerable amount of tree cover once the development site matures. Whilst development of new homes along the south-east and southern boundaries does necessitate the removal of some of the existing shelterbelt, the southern shelterbelt has been identified as an area of existing trees with least ecological and biodiversity value.

It is inevitable that in the future, tree felling will become necessary along this shelterbelt and will be the only reasonable management option due to continual windblow damage. As part of this development, the strongest trees will be retained, and augmented with appropriate species of new woodland planting to reinforce the shelterbelt through time.

A full Ecological Appraisal and various surveys have been undertaken to fully understand the site’s existing biodiversity. Three protected species have been identified on the site: Barn Owl, Grasshopper Warbler and Greater Butterfly Orchid. All will be protected in line with environmental legislation and policy.

The new landscaping has been designed to enhance the site’s ecology. For example, taller grassland within areas of open green space will be retained to provide beneficial habitat for hunting barn owl, invertebrates, hedgehogs and amphibians. The proposed woodland and tree plantings have been specifically chosen to include native species to promote increased biodiversity.

The objection overlooks the fact that 43% of the site will be retained as open space and woodland which shall provide excellent opportunities for habitat retention and also biodiversity enhancement and creation.

Steps to protect biodiversity include:
• A purpose built, masonry “barn owl tower” will be built to accommodate nesting barn owls otherwise displaced by the loss of the existing nest site at Hazelwood Villa. An additional two mounted or tree mounted nesting boxes will also be provided to ensure alternative provision is in place.

• The proposed ‘green fingers’ have been designed to reinstate vegetation in order to keep the original field patterns, which dictated the masterplan designs. Native shrub and hedge planting has been proposed to compensate for the loss of hedgerows.

• Planting trees in the main central parts of the wetland will be avoided so that the marshy grassland/fen type habitat is retained. Proposals now only include the margins – which may be planted with species which would form a wet woodland fringe over time – complimenting the central grassland and providing a landscaped ‘buffer’ to this sensitive area for breeding birds.

• Greater variety of grass and wildflower mixes will be introduced across the site, including donor seed harvested from existing habitats. These will be planted across the site, but particularly in the proposed SUDS areas and around the periphery of the existing wetland.

Wetlands and Flood Mitigation
At the heart of the masterplan is a generous area of green public open space for new residents and the wider community to enjoy. The existing central grassland areas (outwith the protected and untouched wetlands) will be enhanced to increase biodiversity and community value. Together with the existing wetland this open space will provide an important green heart to the development that will have 43% greenspace, far exceeding Renfrewshire Council’s standards for open spaces within developments.

Whilst the central grass area is currently wet, it should be noted that it sits in a poorly drained marshland. Once the site is developed, with new drainage enhancements directed to the sustainable urban drainage (SUDS) pond, it is likely that this area will drain more efficiently.

Central Greenspace
Those objecting have portrayed the Village Green as a “hazard”, citing steep slopes falling into a pool of water half a metre deep. The objectors have selected the ‘worst case’ level difference of 9 metres between the proposed housing and the ‘village green’. The existing topography is already steeply sloping in this area, and the development has been designed to suit this characteristic whilst complying with building, safety and transport regulations. Also, the development’s sustainable urban drainage system will make this area substantially drier.

As with school infrastructure, the developers are committed to paying for off-site road improvements to meet the additional demands on roads infrastructure created by the new homes. The proposals would not be detrimental to the public transport network and are therefore in accordance with the adopted Local Development Plan. The objectors helpfully note that when considering transport infrastructure for new development the priority is walking, followed by cycling, then public transport, then private vehicles.

The objectors state the site is poorly served by public transport. However:
• Barrhead Station is 1.7miles away and Hawkhead 1.8 miles away
• The site is currently well served by bus routes.
• The N7 National Cycle route passes within a mile of the site
• Local shops are 750metres from the site
• School proximity ranges from 850 metres to Todholm Primary and St Andrews to 2.1 Miles to the Grammar.
• Each new resident will be given a green travel plan to make it easier to plan non car journeys

The consortium have always acknowledged that a development of this size will have an impact on local schools and that suitable arrangements will be required to address higher demand. This will become a planning obligation forming part of any Planning Consent, and the mitigation agreed by the Council’s Planning, Education and Property Services will be secured by a Legal Agreement. Renfrewshire Council is currently undertaking a review of its Education Estate to inform what future provision will be required.

The build period for this new development is currently anticipated to be eight years with pupils expected to be generated in August 2023 at the earliest. Any children new to the area will gradually enter the education system over this time, allowing the education capacity to grow to meet this emerging demand.

The Economic Facts
The sale of the site allows the NHS to reinvest in front line services: safeguarding jobs and improving Dykebar Hospital for patients, staff and the whole community.

The construction phase of Thornly Park Village will provide 100 full-time equivalent construction jobs, injecting an additional £39.7 million into the regional construction sector, with the consortium members committed to using local firms and labour whenever possible.

An independent economic impact assessment indicates that the new homes will generate £18 million per annum in household spend, with £7.3 million spent in the local economy.

In addition, the new households will generate over £1.9 million a year in Council Tax to be spent on local services. The proposal supports Renfrewshire’s economic strategy which itself identifies that 5,000 new homes will be needed over the next 10 years to help attract new investment and jobs to the Area, and encourage workers to live locally.

Further information
We appreciate that this is a complex planning application. A summary of the greenspace and biodiversity proposals gave been summarised as a Placemaking Report . If you have a specific question please use this website to contact us