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Newton Mearns Community Council

Meeting dated 11 November 2013

Attending:

David Jesner (Chairman) Colin Hamilton (Treasurer) Julie Mylett (Secretary) Stewart Mylett

Bryson McNeil Susie Swift Kirsteen Allan Irene Yona

Councillors Barbara Grant Charlie Gillespie Tony Buchanan Jim Swift

Police Officer – Strathclyde Police

 

Before the meeting started the Chairman called for a 1 minute silence for Remembrance Day.

APOLOGIES

Jules McGeever Pat McCall Chris Majury Emma Majury

Cllrs. Paul O’Kane Elaine Green

James Lauder sent a Letter of Resignation with apologies and wishing NMCC well.

 

COMMUNITY POLICE REPORT

The representative police officer provided crime figures for the period up to 11 November.

6 reported simple assaults with 2 detections and 4 live enquiries

No serious assaults

23 thefts with 4 detections, 10 live enquiries and it was noted that 2 thefts were from insecure motor vehicles

2 vandalism

6 BOP with 2 live enquiries

1 report of drugs

5 road traffic offences including drink driving,careless driving and driving without insurance, MOT or licence

APPROVAL OF PREVIOUS MINUTES

Minutes dated 27th October 2013 were proposed by Stewart Mylett and seconded by Bryson McNeill.

Minutes dated 3rd November 2013 were proposed by Stewart Mylett and seconded by Bryson McNeill.

MATTERS ARISING FROM PREVIOUS MINUTES

Barbara Grant confirmed she had not received 3rd November minutes and the Secretary will forward another copy to her.

Bryson McNeill asked why the Community Council was against Maidenhill as a location for a mosque.  David Jesner confirmed that as we are opposed to building on greenbelt therefore our objection would remain.   If the outcome of the Consultation on the LDP meant that the greenbelt would be released then NMCC would then support Maidenhill as a preferred site for the mosque

REPORTS FROM COUNCILLORS

Councillor Gilbert made comment that Asda shopping trollies were being found down Crookfur Road.

Councillor Buchanan advised of the adoption of sections of road: Tracquar Gardens, Abbotsford Gardens and Hunter Drive.

QUESTIONS TO COUNCILLORS

The meeting then focussed on the Modifications to the LDP.   David Jesner asked what response ERC had so far.  Bryson McNeill said there have been 460 emails and 100 letters the vast majority of which were in relation to the objection of a mosque at EHS.   Bryson stressed the importance of getting the responses in with only 9 days until the end of the consultation period.

David Jesner then asked if there were any comments regarding the public meeting held 28th October.  He asked that the over-riding message to ERC Councillors was how disappointed the public were in their lack of attendance.   Councillor Buchanan confirmed that he had only heard good comments about the meeting and he unfortunately was attending a meeting at Neilston Primary on the same topic.  He did confirm however that he is very aware of the public’s views on this Consultation.

David Jesner then opened up the meeting to the public.

Q:   Does the Council have a policy in place for handling these Consultations in a transparent way and provide information and analysis through links on their website?

A:  Councillor Buchanan responded to say the procedure with this type of proposal by consultation was the right way forward.  If it then goes to the Planning Dept they must reach a decision taking into account legislation and looking into the planning aspects of any proposal.

Councillor Swift said that judging by the swell of opinion the public see local politics as undemocratic.

David Jesner commented that fundamentally this proposal should have never seen the light of day.

A member of the public then stated that although he believes the Muslim Community should have a mosque in Newton Mearns he believes that EHS is NOT the correct site for this. He believes it will create bad feeling.

Q: How did the Muslim Community hear about the possible availability of this site?

A:  Councillor Buchanan said the Muslim Group that put forward the proposal would need to be asked that question.

There followed some debate over the location of the proposed mosque with a member of the public showing the CC the ERC site plan with the red circle which was confirmed by the Provost at a meeting at EHS.

David Jesner repeated the conversation he had with Cooper Cromer the architects who confirmed that the area was a landscaped area and part of the new High School campus.   He also found google images showing the area in question as always being part of the school.   He said this was established beyond doubt.

Councillor Buchanan clarified that at this stage the consultation would involve the re designation of the land which currently is shown as L1 Protected Urban Green Space and the old car park as Community Ground.

There followed a show of hands to the following questions.

Q:  Who believes the muslim community should have a place of worship in Newton Mearns?

Unanimous show of hands in favour

Q:  Who believes the EHS is the correct site for the mosque?

Unanimous NO show of hands.

Councillor Grant confirmed that there is no doubt that a mosque is required in East Renfrewshire however in an appropriate site.

Councillor Buchanan backed up the decision to consult by stating any individual can make a proposal or amendment to the LDP or indeed request to buy a site.   In fact there were 35 representations to change the LDP and ERC felt that some of those should indeed be considered and consulted upon.

Mosque at Eastwood High School

Denominational School at Waterfoot Road

Changes at Barrhead High School

If these hadn’t gone to consultation then the Reporter could indeed just go ahead and agree them anyway and that was a risk ERC did not want to take.

David Jesner asked what the 35 representations were and were they in the public demain. Councillor Buchanan didn’t believe they were on the ERC website and they were deemed non priority issues.   A list could be provided to NMCC come 29th January once all the information has been collated.

Q:    A member of the public asked a direct question to Councillor Buchanan as to whether he was for or against  this.

A:  Cannot comment as it would jeopardise his personal ability to vote.

Q:  Same member of the public – can you not tell us how this consultation came about?  What official group or party proposed EHS?   As convenor of the Planning Dept Cllr. Buchanan should know this.  Was Cllr. Buchanan not suspicious that a group of individuals came out of the blue and pin point a High School as a preferred option to a build a mosque?   Did Cllr. Buchanan not think it odd?

A:  Not really we see lots of unusual planning requests coming through the department.

David Jesner said that cannot be true. Members of the Muslim community had confirmed that a group consisting of MSPs Jim Murphy, Ken McIntosh and Jim Fletcher were showing Prof Hussain around the EHS site.    WHO did approach the muslim community with this site.

Q:   Can ERC clarify how the letters and emails are received into the Planning Department.  What constitutes a response?

A:  At this stage it is not a planning application.  It is a consultation therefore they are just gathering public opinion just now.

Q:  A member of the public commented that Professor Hussain is running WEC but has no funds.  There is no proper heating system.  Where would they get the funding for EHS.  The Muslim community in Lanrig Road weren’t looking for another mosque.   He believes that East Renfrewshire does not even need another mosque with 25 mosques being in operation in the Greater Glasgow area.  He uses one of them and is aware that most of the time even the bigger ones lie empty for the majority of the week only being busy on a Friday.  The British Legion also has only 10 – 12 people there praying.

David Jesner advised that he had had a site visit with representatives of the Muslim Groups to Patterton Farm.   The Muslim Groups seemed happy with the location.   Good parking, no noise issues considering location and a good rail line for commuting.   Land is approximately 1.5 acres with more than enough area to include a community centre/mosque.

Q:  Does the land designation change because the existing car park at Eastwood High School was moved.

A:   The consultation process will be principally changing the land designation.

 

David Jesner confirmed that a Closed Muslim only meeting was being held Tuesday 12 November at Mearns Castle however there would be a non muslim open meeting this Saturday.   A member of the public  confirmed that it is in fact Monday 18th November at Mearns Castle High School and he had a ticket.   David Jesner asked if he had encountered any problems.   He confirmed none other than  a rather complicated website.

A 6th year pupil at Eastwood High School stood up and stated that he believes all the pupils at EHS have been treated badly and they are disgusted in ERC.    He stated that this situation has caused a divide between the muslim and non muslim pupils although the school are trying hard to avoid this by stating that pupils cannot petition within the school.  He stated that ERC are stealing education from the pupils.

There followed some discussion regarding the original handling of the proposal.  ERC did not ask any questions of the proposer.   Who they represented, how many they represented.  If they had done their research they would have realised this group did not represent the whole muslim community.  Tony Buchanan confirmed that they had dealt with WEC previously so knew who they were dealing with as they had helped with getting the Woodfarm location.

Was there no due diligence?

Councillor Buchanan confirmed they did not ask questions.   There is no requirement to at this stage.

There appears to be a divide between the muslim groups. Will they join together for the overall good of their community.

A member of the public felt the Consultation was a good  thing.   He believes that muslim children deserve a local place to learn the koran, their culture in fun environment such as a well run mosque which could benefit the whole community.   The size needs to be taken into account now.  Muslim community approx 3000 has grown by 50% in 7 years.

Councillor Swift responded to say there was no disagreement there.  It is long overdue and ERC should most definitely help them get that and must look at existing buildings that they may have.  Potential locations include Giffnock and Fairweather Hall?  Comments followed that it may be too small and be within a suburban area.   Councillor Swift also acknowledged that he believes there has been a huge lack of communication by ERC.

Patterton Farm could be made available at no cost to The Council and very quickly.

Councillor Buchanan stated that they were asked by The Reporter to make available land for a mosque and they felt it was reasonable to identify in the LDP an area at Maidenhill for that purpose.   In fact ERC identified 3 sites.  If the preferred site is on greenbelt however they must go through the correct processes.

Q:   Where is the original model of the new school campus which was on display?   On that model people remember that the section under consultation was definitely an integral part of the school and why would ERC now spend nearly £1m in landscaping to reconsider it for something else?

A:  Councillor Buchanan was unsure where the model was but would certainly find out for us.

Q:   Given the emphasis on GIRFEC the modern way to educate, Scotlands poor health in children why would ERC rip up their plans for outdoor classrooms and recreational facilities?

A:   No comment.

Q:   There is a perception that ERC seem to always come across difficulties with establishing a mosque for the muslim community.   Why not set up a working group.

The muslim community need to work together to make this happen.

Q:   Was ERC not surprised at the site being put forward?    There is a feeling of underhand practices within ERC.   Was money exchanged?

A:    Councillor Buchanan can understand people’s feelings about this but he assured the meeting that there were no underhand tactics, money was not exchanged and they have gone through a process which was the right decision to make.

Councillor Swift agreed to his knowledge no money was exchanged.

Q:  How do I investigate how this happened and ease my suspicions.

A   Unless you have some solid information to go on then there would be no point.   The process is transparent.   The consultation with all public responses will go to the Reporter. By Easter the Summer the Reporter will have made a decision.

Q:  What would you do if you found out something underhand had happened?

A:   Councillor Buchanan stated he would certainly have a discussion with that person.

A member of the public then stood up and made comments regarding his feelings towards ERC representatives who go along to meetings including Remembrance Day events just for the photo opportunities.

A member of the public then stated that he was advised that the real objective for ERC is Maidenhill.  The only way Maidenhill can be achieved is by creating a ground swell of objection to an unrealistic site ie. EHS.   Therefore the public view Maidenhill much more attractively.   He believes EHS is a smoke screen to push through the release of greenbelt for Maidenhill mosque.

Q:   Will a representative of NMCC be attending the non muslim meeting on Monday 18th?

A:  Yes we will be applying for at least one ticket.

Q:   The public are unhappy was ERC keep using words like adjacent to and opposite.   Clearly the plan shows the land to be on the school campus.   Can the Councillors confirm that they believe it to be on the grounds?

A:   Councillor Buchanan said we cannot comment on that.   Again it would jeopardise the consultation and our participation in it.  We have had advice from lawyers and one single comment could exclude us from voting.

Q:  Ian Mclean was quoted as stating he believes the mosque would be within the open space.  How are we meant to make a response and objection when we don’t have the full facts.  Why is ERC spending £1m on ground that they believe isn’t part of the school.  It makes no sense.

A:  It is Council ground and is it being maintained by the Council at present paid for by the Education Dept?

Q:  In Jim Murphy’s letter he states that if the school’s open space is lost they will be get some somewhere else???   Where would this be?

A:  Councillor Buchanan That is certainly something to add to your comments.

Q:  If the muslim community withdraw their proposal would this put a halt to the consultation and how do we make sure this doesn’t happen again and the land remains with the school.

A:   Councillor Buchanan advised that he wasn’t sure if it would kill the submission but the LDP would remain and possibly The Reporter may still consider either site. The land would require to be rezoned and designated to keep it with the school.   It would carry a lot of weight if you included that within your objection.

Q:   Within the proposal did the Muslim Group put forward financial or planning plan

A:   No there was no requirement for that at this stage.

The public can also write to ERMEC  and ask that they withdraw their submission to the use of EHS.

Bryson McNeill emphasized the need for responses and to encourage everyone to respond.   Petitions are great but only count as one vote.   He also commented that at least 2 MSPs had come out against this proposal Stewart Maxwell and Jackson Carlaw.

The 6th year pupil expressed disappointment at the High School’s stance not to allow them to have their say considering Crookfur Primary pupils were allowed to comment on getting a nursery on their site.

A member of the public confirmed that the janitor spotted Jim Murphy and Ken McIntosh with Prof Hussain at Eastwood High School.   He went to the office to report them as he didn’t know who they were.

Convenors Reports

Due to the lengthy discussion on the Modification to LDP it was agreed to postpone any convenors reports to next month.

David Jesner did ask if the Community Council were in agreement to his points raised in objection to the denominational school at Waterfoot.    Everyone agreed with the objection and it was agreed it would be submitted to ERC.