Entrepreneur Ann Gloag was accused yesterday of launching a legal attach to challenge Judy Murray’s plans for a multi million pound tennis and golf centre on farmland near Andy and Jamie’s home town of Dunblane.
Gloag, 73, co-founder of the Stagecoach bus company, was revealed to be the owner of an adjacent landowning company which won status as a formal objector at the public inquiry into the Murray plans, which closed last night.
Arnbathie Developments, of whom Gloag is listed as the sole director, wants to build 129 houses on a nearby site, described by Arnbathie’s planning consultant as “self-contained and discrete”.
Mrs Murray and developers the King Group want to build a 12-court indoor and outdoor tennis centre, trainer golf course, a “Murray” museum, and country park, funded by 19 “millionaire-sized” homes and a 150-bedroom hotel, gym and spa, beside the M9/A9 junction on the outskirts of the town.
For Arnbathie, chartered town planner Stuart MacGarvie told the inquiry that Mrs Murray’s proposals for the luxury homes “failed against all the relevant criteria” for “enabling development”
This is the concept where construction that would otherwise be rejected is permitted, because it is the only means possible to fund something regarded as of public benefit.
Mr MacGarvie said no off-site locations for the “enabling development” had been put forward by Mrs Murray’s Park of Keir Partnership group.
He added the tennis centre, on Green Belt land at Park of Keir, Dunblane, was “not sited in a sustainable location.”
He was asked by Mrs Murray’s solicitor, Neil Collar, whether he had recommended to his clients that they should formally object to Mrs Murray’s plans because they would make it more difficult for their own proposals to get planning permission.
Mr MacGarvie replied: “I do not accept that premise at all.”
Mr Collar described the principal of Arnbathie Developments as “Ann Gloag of Stagecoach, who is, as I think we all know, one of the richest women in Scotland”.
He asked Mr MacGarvie why it was in Mrs Gloag’s interest to object.
He said: “Mrs Gloag doesn’t live on the site. And she doesn’t live in the local area, does she?”
Mr MacGarvie replied: “Depends how local, but no.”
Mr Collar: “So why would Arnbathie object?”
Mr MacGarvie replied: “I have significant concerns about the impact of development on that site.”
Mr Collar suggested that the reason why Mrs Gloag’s company had focused on the issue of “enabling development” was because if the Murray plans were refused on that basis it would not set “an awkward precedent” for her own site.
Mr MacGarvie replied: “I disagree. I can’t accept that premise.”
He added: “Our concern is the extent of this development on the Green Belt.”
Mr Collar then made the “attack dog” claim.
He challenged Mr MacGarvie: “You’ve not provided any comprehensive assessment to this inquiry - your evidence is really a Trojan horse, to deliver Mr Innes [Colin Innes, solicitor for Arnbathie] as an attack dog, to give him the opportunity to undertake extensive cross-examination.”
In an immediate objection, Mr Innes labelled Mr Collar’s question as “completely, utterly outrageous and unprofessional”.
He added: “I’ve sat here listening to a smear made by Mr Collar to Ann Gloag. She isn’t here to account for that. She is not the company. You can go and look at the website, it’s open and public.”
Earlier, the inquiry heard that local opinion was split.
David Prescott, chairman of Dunblane Community Council, which is objecting, said protecting the Green Belt site was “of critical importance”.
But he admitted that some people in Dunblane - including local traders’ group Discover Dunblane - were strongly in favour of Judy Murray’s plan.
Mr Prescott said: “We recognise the community is not at one on this, but we’ve had to take a balanced view.”
As well as the community council, and Mrs Gloag’s firm, objections have come from the Green Party, Bridge of Allan golf club, and a local pressure group RAGE - Residents Against Green Belt Erosion.
After eight days of evidence, planning Reporter Tim Brian closed the public inquiry, called following rejection of Mrs Murray’s proposals by Stirling Council last year.
After chairing technical discussions, he will receive legal submissions in writing, before making his recommendations to Scottish ministers.
A final decision is not expected for several months.