Cross Examination

I’m going to give evidence at the Park of Keir Inquiry today, a few days earlier than expected. I then face cross examination by the legal representative from the other side, the developers.

My evidence is as follows….

Witness Statement ? the Rev Kelvin Holdsworth BSc, BD, MTh

My name is Kelvin Holdsworth.

Qualifications to speak to the Inquiry
My qualification to make a statement comes from the extent of my involvement in the local community. This comes from a number of roles

? I am a local resident and have lived in Bridge of Allan for four years.
? I work in Bridge of Allan as the Rector of St Saviour?s Church, the local congregation of the Scottish Episcopal Church. This work brings me into daily contact with members of the local community at every stage of life from childhood to death. This includes contact with children at the local primary school, those who work in Bridge of Allan, local residents and those living in Old Folk?s Homes etc. The land known as Park of Keir falls within the Pastoral Area served by me in this role.
? I am a chaplain at the University of Stirling ? this brings weekly contact with the large local population of young people who come to the area for their years of study. This also brings me into contact with the academic community there.
? I chair the Stirling Liberal Democrat local party and was the Liberal Democrat candidate for the Bridge of Allan ward of Stirling Council o­n 1 May 2003.

My Objection
My objection to development at Park of Keir is that it would not be in the public interest and is contrary to the wishes of local people. Others will speak, in greater detail at this Inquiry about specific objections to the Hotel and Conference complex that is proposed for this land ? planning considerations, the nature and value of the Designed Landscape, etc. I have no wish to repeat these objections though it is important to state that I have read the statements of the other RAGE witnesses and share their objections. My specific reason for speaking is to assure the Inquiry that these concerns are shared by a broad range of people within the local community.

Public opinion is notoriously difficult to gauge. There are few mechanisms which can be reliably used to measure what the public really thinks. Referendums are o­ne way in which this can be done ? the local democratic process is another. It is my involvement in this latter field which leads me to the view that local public opinion is against the proposed development. This comes from the experience not o­nly of standing as a candidate in the local election held o­n 1 May 2004 but also of canvassing the opinions of voters in the Bridge of Allan ward. In the weeks leading up to polling day, along with a small team of canvassers, I took to the streets and began knocking o­n doors, speaking to voters in approximately 75% of households within the ward. It is my view that even in the internet age, knocking o­n doors and speaking directly to people remains the primary means of learning what local concerns matter to people.

During this period of canvassing, the Park of Keir issue was raised by a great many people and easily came within the top three concerns that were raised o­n the doorstep (the other two being the state of the roads and the level of the council tax). Amongst those who wished to raise local issues with me at that time, there was overwhelming opposition to the proposed development. [It is worth noting that this point is primarily to do with canvassing local opinion and not party politics ? members of all the major parties have spoken out against this development]. It is the belief of a great many local people that the proposed development of this land amounts to ribbon development and they see this as undesirable for the local communities of both Dunblane and Bridge of Allan.

In the course of my work as a local member of the clergy and my involvement with local politics, I have come into contact with a number of people who campaigned against the development of this land about a decade ago. As might be expected, they have expressed particular disappointment that there is the possibility o­nce again of the land being developed. o­ne of the particular issues which they have raised many times with me is their suspicion that allowing a hotel complex o­n the land will raise the chances of new housing being built between Bridge of Allan and Dunblane. I am aware that local planners have sought to reassure local people that there are no plans (as yet) to build such housing. However, many of those involved in opposing the development of the land at the last Public Inquiry remember that it was stated at the time by those acting for the developer that a hotel and golf course development would be not be economically viable without an adjacent and related housing development. I believe that this is a strong contributing factor to the unease which people feel about the development currently under consideration.

Finally, I wish to comment o­n the broader context in which decisions must now be made. This concerns the ever increasing consciousness of the importance of protecting the environment for generations to come. The awareness of these issues has risen markedly in the years since the last Public Inquiry into the land known as Park of Keir. Green issues are considered by all political parties, not merely those with a specific green agenda; working for the protection of the environment now falls within the sphere of every schoolchild, not merely eco-warriors and campaigners; now, even churches and faith communities are rediscovering the links to be made between the spirituality and integrity of the land and a sense of being fully human. Public opinion is clearly moving towards the protection of the environment and this makes me believe that the presumption against the exploitation of the countryside must be even higher than it has been in the past.

On all of the above grounds, I object to the development of the land known as Park of Keir which falls within the Pastoral Area which I serve.

Speak Your Mind