Glasgow & West Scotland

Judges overturn government ruling on freight terminal

Mossend Railhead Image copyright Google

Judges have overturned a Scottish government decision to grant planning permission for an expanded rail freight terminal in North Lanarkshire.

The proposed development at Mossend was originally declined in 2014 by North Lanarkshire Council but the developer, PD Stirling, appealed to ministers.

They later granted permission in principle despite a reporter recommending that it should be refused.

The judges said ministers had failed to give adequate reasons for the decision.

PD Stirling (PDS), which operates the existing Mossend Railhead in Bellshill, planned to expand the facility by creating the Mossend International Railfreight Park (MIRP).

'Adverse impacts'

It said the park would boost rail link capacity to UK and European markets.

PDS said the development had the potential to deliver 4,900 new jobs during the construction and operational phases.

When North Lanarkshire Council rejected the scheme in 2014, PDS appealed to the Scottish government which appointed Michael Cunliffe to report on it and make recommendations.

In his report, Mr Cunliffe concluded: "While I recognize that there would be substantial economic benefits and carbon savings, in my view these are outweighed by the adverse impacts on quality of place, residential amenity and green space."

He said: "I do not consider that a sufficient case has been made out that the proposal with its large rail freight park on Green Belt land would be..... 'the right development in the right place'."

In May last year, ministers gave approval for the scheme in a letter which stated that they did not support the reporter's recommendation to refuse the application.

Inadequate reasons

North Lanarkshire Council later challenged this decision at the Court of Session in Edinburgh, where they claimed that ministers did not properly explain why they disregarded the reporter's concerns.

Lord Drummond Young, who heard the action with Lady Paton and Lady Smith, said: "In our opinion that decision letter does not contain proper and adequate reasons for reaching a conclusion that is contrary not only to the reporter's recommendations but also the provisions of the strategic development plan and local plan.

"In particular Scottish ministers have failed to explain why they disagreed with the reporter on a number of critical issues, and why they consider that the provisions of two relatively recent development plans should not be followed."

The senior judge added: "We accordingly hold that Scottish ministers failed to give proper, adequate and intelligible reasons for their decision to allow the appeal.

"For that reason we will allow the present appeal and quash the decision of Scottish ministers."

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