The desire to see the decaying Strathmartine Hospital site brought back into use tipped the balance in favour of what an arch-critic described as the urbanisation of the local community.
At a special full meeting of Angus Council, councillors voted 12-9 in favour of a scheme which will see the B-listed one time Baldovan Institution converted into 24 flats, with 198 homes built in the grounds.
Applicant Heathfield Ltd said it needs the income from the large number of new homes to make the overall scheme viable against the costs of buying the site and paying affordable housing and education contributions running to millions of pounds.
The company’s agent, Robert Evans, told the meeting: “This is a derelict brownfield site with deteriorating buildings which can deliver a sustainable future use.”
He said the scheme will support 200 jobs annually over its five-year development.
Angus planning officials had recommended refusal on policy grounds and, in proposing refusal, Councillor Rob Murray said the scale of the Strathmartine scheme was excessive.
“We are bailing the developer out and failing the good people of Strathmartine by urbanising this area,” he said. “This will double the population of Bridgefoot and triple the population of Strathmartine within five years.
“I regret it would leave the buildings as they are, but the effect is so significant don’t take the quality of life away from the people there,” said Mr Murray.
Council leader Iain Gaul said: “It is a running sore and anything we put there is going to be better than what we have there just now. But the jump from 40 (allocated) houses to 224 is a price that is just too much to pay in that community.”
Montrose councillor Bill Duff proposed the amendment which saw the scheme approved, saying: “We have had the NHS move out of the site, board up the windows, close the gate and effectively leave Angus Council to pick up the mess.
“We have a huge site here, it’s an eyesore and it is just going to get worse.”
He said a 40-house allocation for Strathmartine was “frankly uneconomic”.
Councillor Alex King said: “I was appalled when I visited the site. If we allow only 40 houses no-one will come forward so with what we have on the table it is all or nothing and I think in this case it is better to go for all.
“I am not prepared to leave this chamber today where nothing is going to happen for the next five, 10 or 20 years and it slowly rots and falls into the ground.”
Duncan McCabe of Strathmartine Community Council said every avenue to block the development would now be explored.
“I find it quite incredible that these councillors should reject the recommendations of their own planners, overturn not one but two local plans, and dismiss the opposition of 95% of the local community.
“In an era of increased community empowerment this decision is profoundly anti-democratic and stunning in its hypocrisy.”