CONTROVERSIAL plans to build 78 homes on greenbelt land in Kilmacolm have been approved by the planning board - but still have to clear a final hurdle.

MacTaggart & Mickel Homes Ltd have won the backing of the board in their bid to build a development at Kilmacolm Meadow, to the west of Quarry Drive.

At a special meeting of the board, planning permission in principle was granted by nine votes to two - but a meeting of the full council will have the final say on the matter.

The decision came despite 487 public objections to the development, including one from a schoolgirl who spoke during the meeting.

The crux of the matter rested on the fact that the council 'released' the greenbelt site for housing as part of its new Local Development Plan two weeks ago, meaning the bid for 58 private properties and 20 affordable homes was no longer contrary to the local development plan.

The developers have highlighted the eco credentials of the new homes, including air source heat pumps and solar panels.

A shortage of housing - of 100 units - was identified in Inverclyde in the Renfrewshire Sub-Housing Strategic Housing Development Plan 2021 and Kilmacolm Community Council has withdrawn its objection because the land had been redesignated in the new local plan.

Municipal Buildings officials say Quarry Drive has been identified for residential use in the proposed new local blueprint as it is the 'most sustainable of the potential land release options' in Kilmacolm.

But Sofia Latif, 14, a pupil at St Columba's School, told the hearing another 70-plus homes would 'destroy the character of the village'.

She said: "We have walked to school all our lives but now there will be extra vehicles on the road causing congestion and the village won't be able to cope."

Resident Peter Wylie noted that McTaggart & Mickel were due to make £10m selling houses at £150,000 each and added that the development would put pressure on local services such as doctor's surgeries.

Bill Crookston, of Kilmacolm Residents' Association, said if the development went ahead it would open the floodgates for housing proposals.

The chairman of Kilmacolm Civic Trust, Nicol Cameron, said that 78 houses would bring 117 additional vehicles.

He added: "There is a chronic shortage of parking in the village. Most people living in Kilmacolm work in Glasgow, Paisley or Greenock and use the car."

McTaggart & Mickel's three representatives argued that they were an award-winning family company committed to building sustainable housing and working closely with the community.

When Councillor Tommy McVey put forward a motion to grant approval it was supported by a roll-call vote of councillors Jim Clocherty, Chris Curley, Gerry Dorrian, Drew McKenzie, Robert Moran, Natsaha Murphy, Innes Nelson and Ciano Rebecchi.

Cllr Moran said: "The council has approved this site.

"There are people born and bred in Kilmacolm who want to remain there but cannot afford it.

"This will help make homes affordable to local people already living in Kilmacolm.

"Kilmacolm Community Council has agreed with what I am saying, people cannot afford houses because of the prices."

Councillor Jim McEleny tabled an amendment, saying the the proposal was contrary to the Clyde Strategic Development Plan and 'significantly' contrary to the adopted 2019 Inverclyde Local Development Plan.

He told the Telegraph: "The decision recently taken approved the draft updated local development plan - which will now go out to consultation.

"As it currently stands, legally that draft has no status in my view."

This argument was supported by board chair David Wilson, who is a Kilmacolm councillor.

He stated he had 'grave concerns' about the fact that rock may have to be 'mined' as part of the development.

He said: "At the Leperstone site in the village the developers hit black rock as it was a former quarry and this caused some discomfort to constituents due to the noise."

When he asked McTaggart & Mickel if they had conducted studies about how deep the bedrock was, Bruce Hampton, a senior land manager with the company, replied: "An engineering consultant said that there were no technical barriers in terms of ground condition."

He added that rock on the site would be used as part of a feature wall to the entrance.

The application will now go in front of the full council for a decision today.