The Scottish Government is to scrutinise plans for a controversial housing development in Glasgow’s historic Merchant City area.

Ministers have written to Glasgow City Council to require the planning application to be referred to them - a process known as ‘calling in’ - for determination because of the possible impact on the future of the adjacent City Halls and Old Fruitmarket music and entertainment venues.

Scottish Ministers can intervene in the determination of a planning application where a matter of genuine national interest may be at stake.

Proposals for a landscaped and carbon-friendly development were approved by the city council’s Planning Applications Committee following a public hearing.

The plans for the Ingram Street site, which is currently being used as a temporary car park, include 109 sustainable apartments and groundfloor commercial space, housed in buildings varying in height from four to seven storeys.

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Ministers said the proposal, passed on the Chairman’s casting vote at a public hearing of the Planning Applications Committee last month, “potentially raises issues of national significance regarding…development proposals within the vicinity of existing art venues.”

Their decision, which will be based on an examination by a Government-appointed Reporter, will be final.

More than 140 objectors, including Merchant City and Trongate Community Council (MCTCC), opposed the proposals.

HeraldScotland: More than 100 new homes are planned for Glasgow's historic Merchant City areaMore than 100 new homes are planned for Glasgow's historic Merchant City area

The hearing was described by MCTCC as the most important event for local residents in the past 20 years and the culmination of its four-year fight for the area’s first green space. 

An acoustics expert told the hearing that residents of the new flats would have legitimate grounds for complaint about noise from the City Halls and Old Fruitmarket, and that this could put their continued existence at risk.

Lindsay McIntyre, a director at KSG Acoustics, was employed on behalf of Glasgow Life, which runs both the City Halls and the Old Fruitmarket. Together, both venues host well over 200 events a year. 

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The City Halls is Glasgow’s oldest purpose-built performance and meeting space, and is home to the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra, while the Old Fruitmarket, reborn as a music venue, hosts many events during Celtic Connections, Glasgow’s annual international folk, roots and world music festival. 

The site was sold by the Council to its own arms length property company. 

MCTCC Chair Tam Coyle commented: “The future of the site and our dream of Merchant City’s first community park now rests with the Scottish Government. While we cannot prejudge the Reporter’s decision this is a remarkable victory for local residents, at least in the interim.

“Glasgow Council’s decision, waved through on the casting vote of one person, sent absolutely the wrong signal about Glasgow Council’s long repeated mantra of wanting a greener environment for its citizens.”

HeraldScotland: The City HallsThe City Halls

Depute Lord Provost of Glasgow, Bailie Christy Mearns, who campaigned against the development proposal, added: “I am delighted that the Planning and Environmental Appeals Division (DPEA) has called-in the decision to approve a residential development next to one of Glasgow’s finest music venues.

“The Merchant City community has fought this for many years in order to realise their long-held ambition of bringing forward the area’s first play park and multi-purpose outdoor space for the benefit of local people and visitors and in line with the city’s nature and climate goals.

“As well as destroying any hope for a meaningful public open space here, we were also concerned this would result in a significant threat to the Fruitmarket and City Halls, given how close the new flats would be to these key music venues.”

Community Councillor Peter Hayman said: "This site with its trees and mural has had a way of preserving its destiny after many decades.  Hopefully after more than four years of campaigning for the green public open space so lacking in this area we may be able to join with Glasgow Council to realise what is both our and their wish for a welcoming, vibrant city centre."