COUNCILLORS have delayed taking a decision on a £100 million housing development in Inverclyde amid fears the plans could be scuppered over capacity issues at a local Catholic high school.

The development is for 450 new homes at the site of the former IBM factory in Greenock, but officials recommended only 270 should be approved.

However, the developers behind the proposal businessmen Sandy and James Easdale and Advance Construction warned they could pull out of the project if they didn't get the go-ahead for all the houses. 

At a meeting of the Inverclyde Board on Wednesday afternoon five councillors voted to go on a visit to the Spango Valley site while four voted to approve the application as recommended by officials with capacity for 270 homes.

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During the hearing Stuart Jamieson, from the Inverclyde Council's planning board, told members that the 450 houses would have been contrary to the local plan and planners would have recommended it was refused on that basis.

He added: "The opportunity for this development was that we could have either refused it as it was significantly contrary to the local development plan or approve it. The application before members today is for approval. It is a cap figure of 270 with a number of other recommendations."

A report to Inverclyde Planning Board by Inverclyde Council’s interim director of planning and regeneration sent to the board said there were no objections to the development on education grounds, though the local Catholic high school St Columba's 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.”

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.

Following the meeting of the planning board, The Easdale brothers’ spokesman Jack Irvine said, “We are happy to facilitate a site visit and we are impressed the council want to have a good look for themselves before making a decision.”