Plans unveiled for a £100m 'new village' project

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PLANS are being drawn up for a new village the size of Dollar, complete with a golf course and hotel complex, in a quiet corner of Clackmannanshire.

Muir Group, the Fife building company, is putting together a plan for the site near Forest Mill which is expected to gain planning approval later this year.

The project, estimated to be worth 100m, will create one of the largest ever "new villages" in Scotland with up to 1,000 new homes, a school and leisure facilities.

John Thompson, a firm of architects based in London and Edinburgh, has been signed up to work on the project.

An environmental theme will run through the village, with plans for a small hydroelectric dam on the local river, composting facilities and buildings which maximise daylight and minimise waste.

Colin Machin, an architect who is working on the plan, said: "This is going to add to an understanding of what makes communities work. It’s the kind of thing Prince Charles has been talking about."

Clackmannanshire Council is keen to give the scheme the go-ahead, as it will reduce the pressure to build new homes elsewhere in the county. Malcolm McArdle, the council’s enterprise services manager, said: "There is strong support for this. It fits in with our plan."

A source said initial consultations with residents of the hamlet of Forest Mill in the east of the county had produced no opposition to the idea of building new houses.

The village will be built on a 30-acre site owned by Muir Group which includes land attached to the defunct Solsgirth colliery, and agricultural land.

Machin said: "We are keen to do this as soon as possible. Within the broader context, this is development that will put Clackmannanshire on the map."

The village is expected to feature a mix of low-cost, high density housing and detached homes. It will also include a garden centre and local shops.

Jobs will be provided by small scale workshops and craft centres as well as leisure facilities, although the village is also likely to attract commuters travelling to Stirling, Dunfermline and Falkirk.

Muir Group was founded by former joiner John Muir, one of Scotland’s richest men, who set up Muir Homes in 1973.

The company, which owns the Deer Park golf and country club in Livingston, could bring in outsiders to build and operate Forest Mill’s hotel and golf course.

The company also has a housebuilding arm which is redeveloping the former Jaeger clothing factory in nearby Alloa. But the project would be disproportionately large for Muir Homes, which turns over around 19m per year.

A similar plan to develop a "sustainable village" at Errol Airfield near Perth has been delayed by divisions within Perth & Kinross Council and objections from a neighbouring local authority.

Clackmannanshire Council said the village would contain 750 new homes, but sources close to the development say the total number of units could be higher than 1,000.

In its local plan, the council said: "The development of the village will be dependent on it contributing positively to the sustainability of Clackmannanshire and surrounding areas. The adoption of innovative ways of reducing waste, minimising pollution and developing an inclusive and balanced community will have resultants benefits for the surrounding area."

Muir Group’s pre-tax profits rose by 20% to 5.2m on turnover of 52.5m in the year to February 2003, according to figures filed at Companies House. John Muir is the UK’s joint 756th richest person with an estimated fortune of 52m.