Leading Perth businessman Morris Leslie has voiced his “frustration” with the way councillors treated plans for an £8 million homes development.
The Morris Leslie Group’s bid to amend existing planning consent for a holiday homes project near Perth Airport was rejected at the latest meeting of Perth and Kinross Council’s planning and development management committee.
The company had hoped to secure permission to pave the way for a 52-home retirement village aimed at the over-55s market, with no objections lodged by local community councils or members of the public.
While he was frustrated by the committee’s decision to refuse an amendment allowing permanent park homes on the 13-acre Forest Park Village site, the company chairman was more concerned with comments made by Councillors Willie Wilson and Callum Purves.
In moving for refusal, Mr Wilson said: “It’s a fundamental principle this is not a housing site. To be blunt, it’s trying to get a housing site by the back door.”
Mr Leslie, who received an Outstanding Contribution accolade in the 2019 Courier Business Awards to mark 45 years in business across Tayside, Fife and beyond, admits he found the comment “hurtful.”
The businessman, who noted there had been no objection from the public or community councils, said it was a “missed opportunity” for Perth.
In a letter to the two councillors, he maintained the “back door” claim “could not be further from the truth and paints a reputable, locally-based company in bad light.”
He said: “In more than 40 years of doing business both locally and at the national level, I have never had difficulty with any councillor or politician objecting to, not supporting an application or seeing a planning application turned down on valid grounds.
“However, given the hard-earned reputation of the company over many decades, I am disappointed with some of the comments made at the committee meeting because they would suggest that the decision to refuse this application was taken without a thorough grasp of the background to this development and the detailed supporting information that was supplied.”
Mr Leslie, whose Walnut Grove-based company employs nearly 300 staff, continued: “If you had studied the painstakingly prepared information pack that was submitted in support of the application you would have seen that we have spent a considerable sum of money and two years of our time working diligently alongside experts from Newcastle University, producing a detailed research report for retirement housing and, in particular, Park Homes.
“While the Perth and Kinross economy is currently facing unprecedented challenges triggered by the pandemic, local property agents confirm there remains a clear demand for retirement housing – which is in short supply – and to free up much-needed family accommodation elsewhere in the area.”
The company had suggested they could be legally bound to ensure the development would be for over-55s only and not “mainstream housing.”
Addressing concerns expressed over traffic and potential pressure on the Scone surgery, Mr Leslie said: “Again, if the supporting information had been studied, it was clear to see that these matters had all been addressed.”
He said a Transportation Statement indicated that traffic generation is less for a retirement development than for a holiday park.
“We also consulted with the Chief Executive of Integrated Health and Social Care, who confirmed that he had no concerns on the impact of this proposal.”