Last ditch delay for Otago Lane

Added on Thursday 14 Jun 2012

City planning councillors will finally carry out a site visit to under-threat Otago Lane, the historic Kelvinbridge community and niche retail enclave where developers aim to build a controversial housing scheme.

However despite this minor eleventh-hour concession to the weight of public protest many local objectors fear the hugely unpopular plan has already won tacit approval from the council - and that a lane described as "one of the West End's last Bohemian quarters" is set to be ruined beyond repair.

The council's planning committee had been due to decide the issue on Wednesday, but appeared to bow to angry objectors by agreeing to tour the site before making a final decision.

More than 100 people staged a last ditch street protest before the crucial planning meeting, and later a spokesman for Otago Lane Community Association said it was the visible evidence of public anger that persuaded councillors to agree upon a site visit - thought likely to take place in early August.

The planning battle over Otago Lane - home to outlets including Tchai-Ovna tea house, record and book shops - has dragged on for nearly three years, during which the developers have been forced to withdraw and relaunch new versions of the plan.

Objectors say the basic thrust of the latest plan is still totally unacceptable in environmental terms, with many insisting the council aim to back the scheme - as in other claimed instances - simply to acquire even more council tax spin-off from the "cash crop West End".

The firm behind the scheme, Otago Lane Developments, argues its bid to build dozens of new homes in the area will improve what it claims are unsightly gap sites, and that its scheme is in line with planning guidelines for the area. But opponents say it would force several distinctive local businesses to close while deluging already badly congested local streets with unsustainable new traffic.

On Thursday it was claimed there could be "wilful attempts to make a mess of the lane" - by whom is not stated - in advance of the councillors' site visit. The battle to stop the project going ahead in the heart of Kelvinbridge's conservation area is the most high profile of several ongoing planning disputes around the West End, where community activists are fighting to preserve urban public amenities against builders keen to cash in on potentially lucrative prime sites.

At North Kelvin Meadow, by Clouston Street, residents who transformed a site the council had allowed to degenerate into a derelict waste ground frequented by drug users are equally determined to prevent a similarly unpopular housing scheme winning approval.