Bid to halt demolition of run down Glenwood Centre shopping precinct
The local authority has been pursuing a compulsory purchase order (CPO) in relation to the Glenwood Centre since 2019 after suggesting it had become too expensive to refurbish and had become a haven for antisocial behaviour.
A £23 million regeneration programme for the area has been proposed, which will see the unsightly retail units and surrounding flats torn down and replaced with a mixture of modern properties, commercial units and a community hub.
However, two objections – from the owner and the tenant of one of the retail units – were formally lodged against the CPO and a Scottish Government Reporter was assigned to consider the objectors’ appeal.
Despite the challenge, Scottish ministers have now ruled in favour of Fife Council and maintain the CPO process is “proportionate and in the public interest”.
“The purpose of the order is to allow the demolition of the Glenwood Centre,” concluded Elaine Ramsay, assistant planning decisions manager, on behalf of the Scottish Government.
“Clearing the site of buildings in poor physical condition with very poor residential amenity will enable redevelopment.
“As such, redevelopment would offer subsequent benefits to the public including the site to be brought back into a higher amenity use and make a positive contribution towards the regeneration of the surrounding area.
“Allowing the order will discourage anti-social and criminal behaviour which has been problematic at Glenwood Centre.
“Objections have been taken into account, however, the overall public benefit outweighs their personal interests.”
Kendra Richardson, a solicitor representing Unit 14’s owner Amara Anwar, had argued that there had been inadequate consultation and no “reasonable” attempts to acquire or negotiate a voluntary acquisition of the property.
She also branded the council’s steps as “premature”, seeing as no planning permission has been obtained for any redevelopment, and criticised the council for failing to investigate alternatives to a CPO – such as amenity notices or powers under housing legislation.
“Our client supports the principle of improvements at the Glenwood Centre, but considers that this could be achieved by improvements to the existing properties, rather than demolition and redevelopment,” Ms Richardson noted.
Tenant Henry Patterson, who had planned to open a takeaway and convenience store in Unit 14 in the centre, also accused the council of “underhand” tactics and trying to “bully” local businesspeople.
“I question the council’s timing to bring this CPO in amongst a pandemic when businesses are struggling and the economy is trying to recover,” he said.
“Why could they not wait until all matters got better, rather than spend the hard-earned taxpayers’ money against businesses who are trying to recover and flatten them?”
However, a written statement to the Scottish Government Reporter from solicitors Anderson Strathern, acting on behalf of Fife Council addressed all of the points made by the objectors.
“Given the track record of renewal in the wider Glenwood area, the council does not consider that redevelopment of the site is aspirational, nor that demolition is premature,” it concluded.
“Indeed, the council considers that demolition is key to unlocking the redevelopment and improvement of the Glenwood Centre site.”