Two leading members of Aberdeen City Council’s ruling administration have clashed publicly over plans for a £700million “new community” at Countesswells.
Labour finance convener Willie Young and his Conservative coalition partner Ross Thomson were at odds after the Tory member voted against the application for 3,000 new homes on the western outskirts of the city.
Mr Thomson was one of several councillors who raised concerns about the lack of infrastructure in place at present to cope with a major increase in traffic expected from the development.
However, Mr Young said it was “disappointing” that a Conservative councillor – and a member of the administration – had voted against “hundreds of millions of investment in the city”.
Hazlehead, Ashley and Queen’s Cross ward member Mr Thomson has also opposed the £107million Marischal Square scheme for the former council HQ.
Mr Thomson defended his decision last night, and said it was unfortunate that his Labour colleague was “trying to politicise planning”.
He said: “There should be no politics in planning.
“I looked at everything in detail and listened to what people said.”
The spat reflected a wider division among councillors largely serving the west end of the city and others who were in favour of the Countesswells development from a consortium headed by north-east businessmen Stewart Milne and Ian Suttie.
Deputy council leader Marie Boulton moved against the plans at Wednesday’s full council meeting. She stressed she was not anti-development, but argued the local road network was “inadequate” to cope with such an influx of homes.
Yesterday, Mr Thomson said it would lead to “gridlock” on city streets.
He said: “There is huge concern locally at the western end of the city.
“It is about infrastructure, and how our roads are going to cope. We just don’t have things in place like the AWPR, the third Don crossing and the Haudagain improvements.
“People just cannot fathom that we are continuing to develop without getting the roads right first.”
Mr Thomson advocated improvements at the Hazlehead roundabout at the junction of Queen’s Road and Kings Gate, along with further junction upgrades at Springfield Road and Countesswells Road.
Liberal Democrat Martin Greig, meanwhile, suggested local communities around Hazlehead and Craigiebuckler did not believe they had been properly consulted.
Planning committee convener and Labour councillor Ramsay Milne said the development was “ambitious and achievable”, delivering schools, healthcare facilities, employment land and 735 affordable homes.
The point was also made that the Countesswells “new community” – about seven miles west of the city centre – would be phased in over a period of 15 years.
Further detailed planning applications will come before the council for the road access proposals.
The Stewart Milne Group (SMG) said the development would help with “long-term economic and social sustainability” of the city.
Paul Mulholland is property director for Heron Property, the third partner in the project which has put forward an alternative access road plan without the backing of SMG and Mr Suttie.
He said: “We are clearly pleased that a considerable number of councillors in the debate raised concerns over the current road access arrangements and noted that Heron Property is bringing forward a significantly improved solution.
“This will ensure that the development meets the full requirements, not only of those living there, but also of the local communities who have raised concerns over the currently proposed access arrangements.”