Minutes of CLG Meeting 29th August 2013


Bishopton ROF Re-development and the Community Liaison Group

Bishopton was, until 1999, home to the Royal Ordnance Factory, Bishopton, when its then owners (BAE Systems) ceased production operations and commenced decommissioning the plant.

The factory dates back to the First World War, when a "National Filling Factory" was established at the Southern end of the site, and became known as the Georgetown Filling Factory. Production at that site ceased some time during the inter-war years, but the site was re-established and expanded considerably to the West in the late 1930s when three factories were built in the grounds, now covering some 2000 acres (about 960 Ha), together with all the support structures and buildings needed to support a workforce of - at its peak in 1941 - about 20,000. In addition to the factory structures in the grounds (to the South of the railway line), other properties were built in Bishopton itself to the North, these being primarily housing for police and other key workers, but also the playing field area and barracks buildings which are now the "ROF Field" and the Sports and Social Club. The ROF sites were privatised in the 1980's and Bishopton was taken over by BAe Systems Land Systems. Employment had reduced to about 2000 by then, but the viability of the site became uncertain after the MOD opened up its supply contracts for the propellants manufactured at Bishopton to "competitive tendering" - still a very sore point in the community.

Closure and regeneration proposals

Following the announcement of cessation of production in 1999, a Scottish Executive Working Group was set up to identify regeneration options for the site. The Glasgow and Clyde Valley Structure Plan (2000) called for an assessment of the development potential for the site, and the 2001 Renfrewshire Local Plan identified the site . The outcome of this was the generation of a report in 2001 (The CASS Report) and the completion in 2002 of a regeneration framework - neither of which was clearly communicated to the Bishopton community, nor indeed to the Community Council. However, the proposals seen at the time envisaged a numer of "scenarios" with up to 1300 homes being built on the site. Responsibility for the site was transferred to a small division of BAe Systems (Systems Properties, Property and Environmental Services) which had experience of regenerating other ex-ROF sites (primarily the site at Chorley, Lancashire, which had also been an ROF Explosives site).

There was little activity evident thereafter until 2004, when it became apparent that BAe would start "consultation" with the community on its plans. The Community Council prepared a newsletter (January 2005) urging residents to visit the BAe presentation of February 2005, and suggesting topics for discussion. However, it soon became apparent that the intended scale of the proposed developments had taken most people by surprise. A pressure group (Bishopton Action Group BAG) was set up and continues to campaign for halting the development proposal. A referendum was organised by the Community Council and held on April 1st 2005; of the 35.4% of those eligible to vote, 92% voted for the option "I disagree with the proposed development as recently presented at the BAe Systems exhibition". Shortly after this, the Community Council was instrumental in setting up a Community Liaison Group as an instrument for direct communication between BAe/Redrow and the community at large.

The current situation (Jan 2014) is that three builders, Charles Church/Persimmon, Taylor Wimpey and Cala are currently building a range of homes at the North end of the development. A new road, Slateford Rd., has been created off the A8 to provide access to this.  The Southern access Road is complete, and Persimon/Charles Church have made notice of a planning application. The other builder planning to build in this area is Taylor Wimpey.
Details of all the plannng applications, and section 75 conditions are available on the Renfrewshire Council website.     WWW.Renfrewshire.gov.uk

Large Chemical Works
The ROF was essentially a large chemical works, and - like most chemical works - there is a legacy of contamination from the manufacturing operations. However, it is important to remember that this was an explosives factory; the actual size of the core chemical process areas is very small in comparison to the overall size of the site, much of which is needed for non-contaminating uses such as finished munitions stores, laboratories, canteens and other administrative buildings, and process support buildings such as power stations and workshops. The explosives factories were situated far enough away from each other and from other buildings to limit and contain damage and injury in the event of accident or aerial bombardment. Serious contamination is therefore likely to be restricted to these locations, although the other sites will also have the usual manufacturing detritus of hydrocarbons, coal-burning residues and other substances used in the manufacturing processes.

Although in later years the factory operations would have been undertaken to modern standards of environmental care, and have been "policed" by regulators such as SEPA (Scottish Environmental Protection Agency), the prevention of harm to the environment from processes was less well understood in the 1930s and 1940s. Although it is known that contamination does exist on the site, the extent and location of such contamination is not yet known (despite the oft-repeated mantra that "Everyone knows the site is grossly contaminated"!).

There is considerable concern in the community about what contamination does exist, how it is to be cleared, and what effects this may have on health in both the short and the long term. The legal and regulatory framework for dealing with this lies principally in two pieces of legislation - the Environment Act 1995, and the Contaminated Land (Scotland) Regulations 2000. However, to complicate the issue further, because a Planning Application is being generated (for change of use), statutory guidance produced by the Scottish Executive for Planning Authorities (PAN33) must also be considered.