A £100 MILLION housing development could be scuppered because council officials fear too many Catholics would move into the area and put pressures on the local high school, it has been claimed.

The development is for 450 new homes at the site of the former IBM factory in Greenock, Inverclyde but officials have recommended only 270 should be approved in light of capacity issues at the local denominational high school.

The site at Spango Valley, which is owned by Sandy and James Easdale and Advance Construction, is currently subject to planning permission for housing, alongside areas of new employment, leisure, community and retail use. The proposals also include a new Park and Ride facility adjacent to IBM train station, which would see the station reopened to the public, alongside areas of extensive greenspace, parkland and a network of new paths across the site.

However, planning officials have recommended that permission is only granted for 60% of the housing requirement.

A report to Inverclyde 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.”

Inverclyde councillor Chris McEleny said he is concerned only backing 60% of the housing proposals would scupper the entire project and see investment go elsewhere.

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He said that a reason behind the recommendations not to give the go ahead for all the housing is a concern among officials that to approve the application in its entirety would result in “too many Catholics” moving to the area.

The council’s education authority is listed as having raised concerns in a report to Inverclyde planners about the reasons why the application should have 180 homes slashed.

McEleny says that these concerns relate to a fear that too many Catholics would move to the area which would have a knock-on effect on the local Catholic high school.

The Inverclyde councillor says that “housing is a basic human need, if we have too many people for our schools then this is a good problem that we should solve by expanding our school estate, not by limiting the availability of much needed affordable housing.”

The project, which first submitted its planning application in February 2020, represents a £100m investment in the local area, with approximately 130 jobs created through the construction phase and a further 300 jobs upon completion.

The Inverclyde Council Planning Board will make a determination on the application in January.

McEleny said he’s aware there has been resistance to the application from the council’s education authority due to the possibility that if approved, too many Catholics would live in the area that St Columba’s High School could support.

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“I have real concerns that this £100m project could be scuppered at a time Inverclyde needs investment, jobs, and housing for young families,” he said.

“It is quite astounding the amount of Catholics moving to an area could still be a factor in determining a planning application in 2022. I truly hope this will not be a factor but it is certainly something officials have made clear is a concern to them.

“If we think there may be more members of the community that wish to send their children to Catholic schools then the council should be building a new primary school to service changing housing patterns and expanding the capacity of our high schools, we should never be making decisions based on limiting the number of people of a certain faith group that move to an area.”

An Inverclyde Council spokesperson said: “This is a planning application in principle and the reason for conditioning the number of houses is not being driven by schools capacity.

“The housing allocation for the whole site is 420 houses while the application under consideration for part of the site is just below 450 and therefore were it determined based on these figures it would be significantly contrary to the Local Development Plan.”