DUMFRIES and Galloway Council’s Planning Committee agreed recently by a majority to grant change of use of Cairnryan House Hotel for a children’s home. This was against officers recommendations which were to refuse.
The proposal to turn the building into a children’s home to replace Milton House in Stranraer met with objections from the residents and was the subject of a formal complaint from a local councillor, Grahame Forster.
Although Councillor Foster’s complaint was upheld by the Chief Executive he ruled that the flaws were not of a sufficient nature as to render the process null and void.
After the decision, Labour Councillor Forster said: “I was always under the impression that Dumfries and Galloway Council was a corporate council. I am totally amazed the director of social work addressed the planning committee. In simple terms we have one branch of the council, planning, recommending refusal and another branch, social work, pleading for approval.
“The minutes of the public meeting on March 10 state, “It was clear at the conclusion of the meeting that regardless of the consultation/engagement that now takes place with the Cairnryan community the majority of residents would remain unreceptive to the proposal developing further.”
The Chief Executive in dealing with my formal complaint stated, “I have upheld your complaint insofar as there were flaws in the engagement with local members and the public.”
Cllr. Forster added, “It is patently clear that this entire issue has been mishandled from the outset and despite having ascertained the feelings of Cairnryan residents no cognisance has been taken of them. The eloquence of the director of social work obviously swayed the councillors on the planning committee to vote against the officer’s recommendations: perhaps he should have attended either or both of the public meetings and applied his skills on the people if Cairnryan.”
Stranraer and North Rhins Tory Councillor John Dougan said: “Following the decision at the planning applications committee where councillors from all political parties agreed to the change of use for Cairnryan House, the council will now conclude in the purchase of this house. I have asked for an assurance and been guaranteed by the director of social work that continual dialogue between residents and staff will continue as we look at this move.
“I hope very much that in time residents and this project will move forward for the sake of everyone. As I have said in previous press work, this move will allow both staff and young folk a bright future and will I hope be a benefit not only to Cairnryan but further afield.”
At a public meeting last month between the council and the residents of Cairnryan the majority of the members of the community expressed a view that the village was not a suitable location for a residential childcare facility and that they did not feel appropriately informed about the proposal.