The decision was reached despite the Scottish Government planning reporter who considered the appeal saying some issues of concern raised by objectors were not enough grounds to refuse the application. The application had attracted 55 letters of comment, including from the Woodland Trust, and a Stop Hillside Houses Facebook group which was joined by almost 500 people.
Developers Arnbathie Developments and Dandara had appealed through the Scottish Government's planning appeals system against Stirling Council’s non-determination of their application. However, the appeal reporter decided any approval of the application would be premature given the council's 2016 Local Development Plan was currently the subject of an appeal. In his decision, appeals reporter Mike Croft said: "The project's contribution to housing supply at a time when that supply is clearly deficient weighs in its favour, but that benefit has to be seen against the loss of a greenfield site and the project's less than satisfactory public transport implications.
"Those points call into question its sustainability issues. The project is, in my view, premature in relation to the local development plan process, and the examination into the 2016 plan is well placed to take account of the need for more housing land and the extent to which Dunblane ought to expand on its south-eastern side, if at all." Mr Croft said the "internal components" of the project did not justify its rejection nor did concerns raised about infrastructure, such as education and health provision locally, and that the site was "readily available for development" and located in the 2014 Local Development Plan's core area. He added: "With a shortfall in the five-year effective housing land supply, they are important points in the project's favour. But in pure development plan terms, they are outweighed by the site's Green Belt location and the less than satisfactory public transport implications of the appeal project."
The Woodland Trust, which said this week it was "delighted" the appeal had been rejected, effectively safeguarding the woodland meantime, had objected strongly to the project claiming it would damage ancient woodland designated on Scottish Natural Heritage's Ancient Woodland Inventory as long- established woodland of plantation origin. However, Mr Croft said: I am not satisfied, however, that the project's inclusion of housing on what is now a dense, dark conifer plantation is in itself harmful. "Although it goes on to criticise the project for the absence of significant compensatory planting, it would be sufficient in my view, given the considerable extent of deciduous woodland that would remain within the appeal site, for a condition to be imposed on a permission to control its management and maintenance. Mr Croft also dismissed some objections from locals about overlooking of their houses after inspecting the site.