Torrance Community Initiative (TCI) was formed in 2002 by enterprising local residents who lobbied the local council to replace the aging community halls. Sustainable community buildings are needed to provide a secure base for community organisations to thrive and grow in Torrance. However, East Dunbartonshire Council, in common with most local authorities, had more pressing priorities and stated they were unable to fund or manage new buildings. Moreover, they considered that upgrading of the current buildings was not possible. A wide-ranging public consultation was completed in 2005. The results were very positive with 86% of participants supporting the proposals.
Over the next ten years the group worked through a range of issues resulting in an outline planning proposal which was rejected by the planning committee in 2008.
Following the public consultation a group opposing TCI's plans emerged. This group, from houses adjacent to Woodmill Park, mounted a highly organised campaign and succeeded in convincing the council that the majority of Torrance residents did not support the plans.
Reasons for rejection and TCI's response were:
1 Unjustified urban development within the Green Belt. The Council chose to ignore TCI's arguments of why a new community centre/sports development should be located on Woodmill Park.
2 Premature to the Council review of leisure provision. This is still an issue, but TCI were informed that it will take place 'shortly'. To date, there is still no report on this.
3 Contrary to policy protecting existing community facilities. This is a semantic argument where changing the nature of the Park is considered to damage an existing facility. However, it has always been understood between EDC and TCI that existing halls would not close prior to completion of a new one.
4 Contrary to policy protecting open space. Where open space can be used more effectively for community benefit,+ it should happen.
5 Fails to comply with Roads guidance. TCI believed this had been resolved with the Roads Dept prior to the refusal.
6 Insufficient info on contaminated land. This was an unresolved discussion with the council, where TCI argued that intrusive testing was unreasonable at this outline planning stage.
7 Insufficient info on protected species. All this info was submitted to council, but some was time-barred as the planning board was brought forward a month, from the date given to TCI.
8 Insufficient info on flooding. As above.
9 Dangerous precedent of encroachment into Green Belt. TCI has always argued that this application was a special case, i.e where there was clear community benefit from a change of use of greenbelt then it should be granted. Developers do not have this option and so the point is weak.
Attitudes within the Council and the village may change in time. The community owned field could potentially provide much needed new facilities for the wider community, young and elderly alike. Meanwhile, only a very small section of the community use the land; mainly dog-walkers and footballers. Both groups would have had improved facilities under TCI's proposals. Dog-walkers would have well laid paths. For the first time, football players would have had proper changing rooms and toilets along with a state-of the-art pitch.
One can only speculate on the future provision of facilities. The TCI committee will respond to any useful suggestions of how this land can more effectively serve the whole community of Torrance. Any change of use of the land would require a majority vote from villagers, regardless of whether at any later date, planning permission is required. To allow for greater flexibility in any future use of the land the committee intends to propose a change in the aims of the constitution.