Déjà vu! An’ here we go again!

The Royal Burgh of Lanark Community Council is an organisation created by statute. South Lanarkshire Council are obligated by law to create community councils in any local communities that wish to have them.

The primary raison d’etre of the RBLCC - or any other Community Council - is to serve as a two-way communication conduit between what is affectionately known as the “wee” council and what is frequently, but less affectionately, referred to as the “big” council.

This primary function often places the RBLCC in the role of piggy in the middle, with neither the big council nor any aggrieved local citizens considering it to be of much value to either on occasion. As a result, the expression “As much use as an ashtray on a motorbike” is the one most commonly uttered by irate citizens and SLC apparatchiks alike, depending on who we are currently ticking off.

The 10 plus years of the ongoing saga of what is known as the stone rotunda is just such an occasion, with a very large portion of the citizenry howling at the RBLCC to get something done about the old auction rings and the RBLCC howling in vain at SLC Planning, everybody else and each other.

For the sake of anyone unaware of this contentious stone in the shoe of our local population, let me give you a brief update.

Away back in the day, when Lawrie & Symington pitched their tents and headed out to their new home opposite Lanark Moor, they left a couple of their old tents in what is now Braidfute Retail Park. These tents were the two original market auction rings, one being constructed in stone, the other in wood. These were/are both listed buildings and it was the intent of the wise old gnomes in the planning that they should be well looked after.

The general population at the time were so busy arguing about whether the proposed new Lanark Grammar building was to be at the old market site or opposite the new market site that nobody noticed the council had given planning permission for a new retail park on the site, now Braidfute Retail Park.

But the clever and astute Planning department placed what is termed in planning patter as a Section 75 on the retail park developer, County Properties. This Section 75 guaranteed that they would be obliged to ensure that these two auction rings would be wholly refurbished, and preferably occupied, before any of the proposed commercial units in the retail park were even up and running.

But, times were hard and the developer was skint and Planning chose to waive the Section 75, for a year or two - or 10! In fact, they waived it until well after the 10-year limit on the Section 75 clause had elapsed. It is worth noting too that, although everybody who is anybody (including RBLCC) are statutorily consulted on the merits of an original planning application, nobody ever is on the merits of a decision to waive the clause.

The Planning response to RBLCC’s howls of anguish about its seemingly abject failure to ensure that their conditions of the Section 75 were enforced was met by the response that since the developer did not yet have a tenant for the property, they felt it would be unfair to impose it.

But then later, though well within the 10-year enforcement period of Section 75, they found a tenant, Tony Macaroni, who applied for planning to establish a restaurant in the stone rotunda and its environs. During the five-year period that it took for that planning application to elapse, Planning still made no attempt to invoke Section 75.  Worse still, even then, with the aforementioned restaurateur still cheerfully apparently paying the developer £20k per annum to continue the lease of the rotunda, with a view to continuing the development at a later date, they still made no attempt to invoke Section 75.

Meanwhile the incessant pleas of the RBLCC were apparently falling on deaf ears, more specifically the deaf ears of the Clydesdale division of SLC Planning, who are now in a much better position than ever to ignore us by having been relocated to Hamilton!

But fortunately, and with the RBLCC being a statutory organisation, SLC Planning are statutorily obliged to consult us with regard to any and all new planning applications and no words of mine could adequately describe the likely response of the community of Lanark to the most recent one presented to them for consideration.

County Properties have applied to erect a further four new units at the Braidfute Retail Park, adjacent to the listing stone rotunda!

I have, on several occasions over the aforementioned past 10 years of hoping against hope, and in the company of others from both the RBLCC and the Development Trust, discussed the concerns of our community with the principals of County Properties. On each occasion they have declared their eagerness to resolve our complaints and concerns when the time, cash and opportunity arose that would allow them do so.

Given that they now have, patently, sufficient cash to allow them to make a further healthy investment in this Retail Park and also feel sufficiently confident about finding tenants for the new units - customers too, they’re adding circa 90 more parking bays - that they feel now is the time to do so, could I suggest that this is their golden opportunity to fix the faulty stone rotunda too?

The gentlemen at County Properties it has to be said, have been invariably hospitable and always very pleasant and amenable but even so, such is the absolute show of contempt for our concerns and our community, on whom the tenants of the Retail Park depend, so blatantly demonstrated by this latest application, it almost beggars belief.

That thought that SLC Planning might even for a brief moment consider proposing the granting of approval is also beggars belief, although they would in such an event no doubt claim that our interests have been taken into consideration by the imposition of a Section 75 clause insisting that the stone rotunda be refurbished and leased.

As for the Planning committee, they would do very well to remember that they are all up for re-election in 2017.

Mind you, if County Properties, Tony Macaroni, Donald Trump or anybody else would provide a guarantee written in blood (their own), that they will restore the stone rotunda to a functioning entity as it should have been before the very first unit was occupied, who in their right mind could possibly object? But until someone does, let’s see some people power – object now! You can do it on-line.

Sadly though I can’t see such a functioning entity being anything close to a restaurant as in the original application. A glance at the new plan layout shows that the space required for the original proposal could no longer be accommodated, so either the potential tenant is now planning a sandwich bar or they have stopped paying £20k p/a rent!

What it does show is that the developer is now intent in solving the problem by hiding the listed rotunda behind some subtly placed Californian sequoia, although Hyndford Road residents might still be able to view it steadily crumbling from their front windows. Who knows, they could kill two birds with one stone by storing the wooden rotunda (anybody remember it?) inside the stone one!

But - if all and sundry concerned continue to show such an arrogance and contempt for our community by granting this abhorrent application, let’s us vow to never, ever, to set foot inside any of the new units built.



Frank Gunning shares his views on various local issues in his Let's Be Frank column.