THIS week's Community Column is written by West Scotland MSP Ross Greer, Scottish Greens.

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IN the summer of 2019 a number of deeply worried Portincaple residents contacted me.

A land owner had presented them with a ‘masterplan’ for new homes and a hotel which, if it became a reality, would have utterly overwhelmed this quiet hamlet on the shore of Loch Long, not to mention destroying a precious piece of Atlantic rainforest.

I spent a day talking to residents and walking the site. It was clear that a large development here was utterly inappropriate and would be vigorously opposed by the community.

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Ancient woodland and a diverse range of wildlife would be lost, it would present serious access issues on the narrow main road through the settlement, and it would fundamentally change the character of Portincaple.

It was also clear to me that day that the community weren’t just prepared to fight these plans, they were capable of doing so with a level of skill rarely seen in what is an extremely complicated, quasi-judicial process.

The developer revised his plans to 12 large houses. This was still clearly far too large for such a small hamlet and would still have caused significant environmental damage, and did nothing to assuage concerns that the initial designs for more homes and a hotel had been truly ditched.

It’s possible for developers to seek permission for a smaller development first, only to come back later with far larger plans and have those granted, helped by the precedent set by the smaller development.

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More than a thousand objections were lodged by residents and their friends and allies. Not a single Portincaple resident supported the plans. And it all came to a head at the (virtual) public hearing of Argyll and Bute’s planning committee.

I was privileged to speak alongside the community and against this development. Following the passionate and forensically detailed contributions made by residents, Garelochhead Community Council and experts, councillors unanimously rejected the proposals.

There hasn’t been nearly enough good news recently, so after two long years of hard work, I really am thrilled to share this story of a successful community campaign with you.

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