FORMER Rangers directors James and Sandy Easdale have revealed plans for a £15m housing project on the site of a former Tate and Lyle sugar refinery.

A 5.2 acre plot of land which once formed part of the Westburn sugar refinery that shut in 1997 could be turned into a housing estate of 46 new homes.

The site has been lying vacant for decades since the iconic red buildings were bulldozed.

It is the latest project from the Easdales, who in March were left “bitterly disappointed” by a council planning decision that could saw the £100m redevelopment of the former IBM site in Greenock halted.

Inverclyde Council’s planning committee voted 5-4 to grant planning permission for 270 houses on the site – 40% lower than the 450 house development applied for.

The council’s decision on the redevelopment, which would have created 418 full time equivalent jobs, followed a last gasp intervention from council officers recommending a reduction in houses despite the planning application having been submitted almost two years ago.

The millionaire brothers said at the time that there was every chance that the project will no longer be economically viable at the scale approved.

But that project may not yet be dead in the water, as it has been confirmed the Easdales in conjunction with their planning experts and lawyers are considering an appeal.

The Greenock refinery site was sold by property agents Bowman Rebecchi in October 2021 after the long-term vacant site closed in 1997.

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An artist's impression of the proposed Tate & Lyle site development 

The prime and historic industrial site was available to buy for offers in the region of £600,000.

Development plans have since been submitted by the Easdales' property investment firm Dalglen Investments who jointly purchased the site as part of their £800 million countrywide property portfolio.

Dalglen’s property investment operations are behind several housing projects throughout Scotland, including the former IBM site in Greenock, the former Tullis Russell paper factory in Glenrothes, and a waterside housing development at Dumbarton, creating over 3,000 new homes within the next decade.

It is hoped the construction phase of the £15 million project in Greenock will create 40 jobs - including at least 15 apprenticeships - which could last up to two years.

A mixture of three-bedroome detached, and semi-detached properties are proposed, with the site stretching along the east of Drumfrochar Road, adjacent to M&J Timber and Wellington Park Bowling Club.

Sandy Easdale said: “We have submitted this new proposal with the intent to create increased housing capacity and to continue to support the future economic prosperity of the Broomhill and Drumfrochar area.

“Other private housing developments close to the Drumfrochar site previously have proven to be extremely popular and have provided great family homes for locals and long-term ownership.

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“We see no reason why this wouldn’t be the case with our site, and we expect this to be a highly popular development.”

James Easdale added: “The ongoing development and economic improvement of this part of Greenock is something we are deeply passionate about, and further supports our ongoing investment into nearby areas at Baker Street, Ingliston Street, and Orchard Street.

“We believe this is a fantastic opportunity to bring this historic site back to life while also creating much-needed homes for locals while creating further repopulation opportunities.”

Sandy and James Easdale, 54 and 50, were new entries in this year’s Sunday Times Rich List, with their fortune, estimated at £1.4bn made through transport and property.

They own McGill’s Buses, which is the largest privately owned bus company in the UK with a fleet or more than 440 vehicles.

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Their involvement with Rangers began when in 2013, when the club was left on its knees financially in the wake of Craig Whyte’s takeover.

The pair’s time with the club was controversial as they were part of the unpopular board controlled by Sports Direct supremo Mike Ashley.

Both of the brothers resigned from the board in 2015.

 

The history

Ships and sugar were for nearly 250 years the foundations of Greenock's prosperity.
And its association with Tate and Lyle business was a key reason for that.

In the 18th and 19th centuries Greenock and nearby Port Glasgow were Scotland's gateway to a lucrative in trade in sugar, tobacco, rum - and sometimes humans.
Greenock emerged as Britain's primary destination for West Indian sugar, with its first sugar refinery opening in 1765.

John Walker began a sugar refinery in Greenock in 1850 followed by the prominent local cooper and shipowner Abram Lyle who, with four partners, purchased the Glebe Sugar Refinery in 1865.

Colonial connections, initially with the slave colonies in the West Indies, ensured a supply of the raw material for processing.

The plantations were also seen as places to become rich, enticing thousands of Scots to the Caribbean in an attempt to make their fortune.

By the early 19th century a third of the plantations in Trinidad, the world's largest sugar producer, were believed to have been Scottish-owned.

The refining trade made several dynastic business fortunes and these families came to have an important role in the business and politics of 19th century Greenock.

Within two decades Greenock had 14 refineries, with 400 ships a year arriving from the Caribbean.

Tate and Lyle was formed from a merger in 1921 between Mr Lyle, who had expanded into Essex, and Henry Tate, who had set up a sugar refinery in Liverpool and had expanded into London.

Tate and Lyle's Westburn Refinery as it became known, was originally founded in 1896 as Berryards Refinery in Greenock.

After a take-over by Tate & Lyle in 1976, it became the last survivor from a group of at  sugar refineries which combined, made the town one of the most important sugar-producing centres in the UK.

The company closed its Walker refinery in Greenock in 1979.

And it was the end of an era when 18 years later, Tate & Lyle, closed the doors at its Westburn Refinery for good.

It meant redundancy for almost 170 workers, with plans to transfer production to its factory in London.
But the company continued to operate a storage site through its United Molasses division

The firm finally severed its ties with Greenock in 2005 when it closed its remaining operations as part of a cost-cutting review.

It was the final nail in the coffin of an industry that invigorated the town for nearly 250 years.