MILLIONAIRE brothers James and Sandy Easdale are considering an appeal to Scottish ministers over a £100 million housing development bid following a dispute with a council.

The two businessmen submitted a detailed application more than two years ago to build 450 homes at the site of the former IBM plant in Greenock.

They also planned to develop the site at Spango Valley for leisure, community and retail use and said the project would create with the potential to create 130 jobs through the construction phase and a further 300 jobs upon completion. 

However, ahead of the proposals being heard by members of Inverclyde Council's planning board in January, officials recommended that the greenlight should only be given to 270 of the properties - 60 per cent of the development.

Part of the justification given by officials for limiting the number of properties was concerns over capacity issues at the a local Catholic school.

A report to the planning board by Inverclyde Council’s interim director of planning and regeneration said there were no objections to the development on education grounds, though the local Catholic high school had “some capacity issues”.

It said: “Education – no objections. It is advised that the development is within the catchment of St Columba’s High School, which is currently experiencing some capacity pressure.

“However, education services assessment, based on currently available information, is that the school estate will be able to accommodate additional pupils from this development in the future.”

The report added: “After careful consideration, the conclusion reached is therefore again that in order to protect its interests including realisation of the wider Spango Valley Priority Place development, and to take full cognisance of the potential impact on the capacity of the denominational secondary school, the council has to control, via condition, the number of residential units on the application site to the previously mentioned maximum figure of 270.”

Sources close to the Easdales said they were not informed of the housing limits when they submitted the proposals and if they had been they would not have lodged them. They said the lower number of houses did not make the development viable and have previously threatened to sue the council to recover their costs.

The planning board meeting scheduled to make the decision was then postponed until March to allow members to get more information about the application and the controversies surrounding it. In the end councillors narrowly voted to approve the development with the officials's recommendation for 270 dwellings.

But the Easdales brothers, who submitted the application with Advance Construction, want the full complement of 450 homes built in the development.

Asked by the Herald if the businessmen were considering an appeal to the Scottish Government, a source close to them said: "Yes it is high on their agenda."

The Easdale’s adviser Jack Irvine said: "Sandy and James Easdale will explore very avenue on this matter."

He added: “First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has said Scotland needs 100,000 new homes in the next decade. Local councillors have a very perverse approach to her wishes.” 

Last month industry body Homes for Scotland (HFS) warned that the country is suffering from a chronic housing shortage of about 100,000 new homes.

HFS said the lack of new housing is a result of a “consistent undersupply” over more than a decade.

The group represents 200 member organisations with an aim to deliver more homes for the country.

It has called on the Scottish Government for a target of at least 25,000 new homes per year – the minimum quantity the group believes is needed to meet with current demand.

A spokesman for Inverclyde Council said: “An application for planning permission in principle was approved at a meeting of the planning board on 2 March 2022 for a maximum of 270 houses to be built on the site.

“As is the case with all planning applications, applicants have the right to appeal to the Scottish Government within three months."

Last week the Easdale brothers unveiled plans for a £20 million development of an old Glasgow department store, which they hope to turn into a boutique hotel.

The brothers, the owners of McGills Buses, have submitted plans to Glasgow City Council for the redevelopment of the Watt Brothers store, which they said could be a “stepping stone” towards restoring Glasgow as a “great shopping and leisure centre”.

The former shop, on the corner of Bath Street and Sauchiehall Street has been empty since Watt Brothers went into administration in 2019.

Now, after reaching a deal with administrators at KPMG, the two brothers hope to turn the art-deco style building into a boutique hotel, complete with luxury residences and a shopping complex.

Architect Douglas McConville of Silverfern Consultancy has drawn up plans for the listed building, which dates back to 1914, aiming to restore and enhance historic features.

Sandy Easdale said: “We wanted a classy design that would maximise the use of the huge site but would not compromise the unique character of the original building.”

The majority of planning appeals to Scottish ministers are decided by an independent reporter from the Planning and Environmental Appeals Division of the Scottish Government.

The reporter is required to make a decision on the planning merits of the case and in accordance with the development plan, unless material considerations indicate otherwise. 

The reporter will take account of submissions made by all parties, including from members of the local community.

In the financial year 2020-21, Scottish Government reporters issued 135 appeal decisions, granting permission on almost 50 per cent of cases.

The technology firm IBM built its first factory in Spango Valley, Greenock, in 1951, initially manufacturing typewriters, printers and other office equipment.

Four decades later the plant started to produce personal computers. The company continued to evolve and expand along the valley through the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s, and was a major employer in the region.

However, operations began to decline from the late 1990s as they were relocated to other locations  across the globe, and the factory was subsequently closed. IBM retain a presence in Greenock with a client centre within the Pottery Street Business Park.

Since closure, the IBM facility at Spango Valley has been demolished and the site cleared.