GRAHAM’S The Family Dairy has hit out at the Scottish Government and the planning system after the Court of Session overturned the decision by ministers to refuse the company permission for a £40 million housing and dairy project in Stirling.

The Bridge of Allan-based firm has successfully challenged the ruling by ministers in June to block the application, which centres on the development of a £20m dairy and 600 new homes at Airthrey Kerse farm.

Ministers had backed the original decision of Stirling Council and subsequently the view of an independent reporter to refuse the application, on the grounds it would run counter to the local development plan and result in the loss of a significant area of sensitive greenbelt.

The refusal infuriated Graham’s, which argued that the decision was inconsistent with the Scottish Government’s stated commitment to tackle Scotland’s housing shortage and promote economic growth.

Graham’s said its project would create 500 jobs and bring about a step change in dairy production in Scotland, which could be key if Brexit leads to tariffs being applied to dairy imports from the EU. And it argued that its plans would give a £65.3m boost to the Scottish economy, creating 1,425 jobs across the country.

However, the decision to block the plans has now been overturned in Scotland’s highest civil court. It brings to a close a planning wrangle which began when Graham’s first submitted its application in 2014.

READ MORE: Graham's boss slams Government after planning blow

Robert Graham, managing director of the family-owned business, declared that the firm was “really, really pleased to get the decision”, which he said marks the end of a “very long journey”.

But he expressed his frustration at the planning process, arguing that for it to have taken the Scottish Government two years to reach an ultimately “flawed” decision illustrates the inefficiency of the current planning system.

Mr Graham said: “The Court of Session gave the Scottish Government a very clear message with the decision. It is disappointing that, as a family business, and doing things that tie in with what the government say they are prioritising – creating homes and growing the Scottish economy – [the process] has been so drawn out and led to us taking this to a successful challenge. It is just a very poor process.”

Mr Graham added: “It has been a frustrating process, but we are really pleased by the decision of the Court of Session and the law lords. Hopefully we will now be able to get our proposals and our application properly considered by the Scottish Government.”

READ MORE: Dairy firm Graham's flexes international muscle

Mr Graham said the company would now forge ahead with its efforts to bring the project to fruition, though he said it would have to seek clarity on what its next step will be in light of the Court of Session ruling. He noted that the company could take on board some of the observations made by the independent reporter.

In addition to building a dairy and hundreds of homes, which Graham’s is looking to develop with Mactaggart & Mickel, the company's original proposals included the construction of a primary school and a 90-acre public park.

Mr Graham said: “For over 10 years, Stirling Council has failed to meet the Scottish Government’s housing requirements. This failure of provision now sits at close to 900 homes. The decision also recognises that Stirling’s recent Local Development Plan has failed to allocate sufficient land for new homes”.

The ruling by the Court of Session means that the dairy firm's costs will be covered by the Scottish Government.

A spokesman for Stirling Council said: “We acknowledge today’s ruling by the Court of Session which upholds an appeal against a decision taken by Scottish ministers to refuse plans for a housing development at Airthrey Kerse.

“The council are not a party to this matter which was a private case between the developer and the Scottish Government, however, the council maintains its position that it has sufficient housing land supply.”

The Scottish Government said: “We note the opinion of the Court and will now carefully consider it and its implications.”