Saturday, 4 July 2009

Shooting Stars - The Growth of Inverness

How did one group of consultants in 2003/2004 try to account for the growth of Inverness?

The consultants' report began,

The City of Inverness and its hinterland have emerged as shooting stars in the twin firmaments of the Scottish economy and Scottish society. The media certainly know this: it seems that everywhere you look there is press coverage of Inverness. Since it became a millennium city on 19 March 2001 there has been even more interest in ‘The Capital of the Highlands’, at home and abroad.

There is solid achievement behind this. Economic growth has substantially outdistanced the UK as a whole, and the improved prosperity is palpable in the streets of the town. After some rocky times a decade ago, the local economy now seems to be operating close to full employment.

And, in contrast to large swathes of Scotland where population is declining, Inverness has attracted more and more people to swell its population numbers. House-building activity on estates and individual plots across the city and in the surrounding commuter belt bear witness to this, and Census results have provided statistical proof.

Exactly how much growth has there been? What is behind it? How has new wealth been created and what has given rise to new jobs? Why are people moving into the city? Looking to the future, what will Inverness need to create and support further sustainable expansion?

The consultants' report continued,

To test out ideas on the reasons for growth, we interviewed twenty people who have been influential in the growth of the city (‘Shakers’) in both the public and private sectors. The Shakers were contacted by e-mail and were interviewed by telephone in August 2003. ...section reports their replies, rather than evaluates the proposed arguments.

We surveyed people who have backed the growth of the city through their own major life decisions: the ‘movers’ who have recently set up house. As primary research we surveyed new housing areas in an ‘ask the-people’ approach. Very high response rates give a reliable and detailed indication of the motivations people have for moving to Inverness and document the (largely favourable) views they hold about their city.

The movers survey was conducted by post with a ‘Freepost’ return address. Of the 200 postal surveys sent out to residents of recent housing developments on 19th August 2002, a total of 49 were returned completed by 5th September 2002. This represents an almost 25 per cent return rate, significantly more than the 5-15 per cent normally recorded in non-incentivised household surveys.

A third of the movers were people who had moved from somewhere else in
Inverness. Of the remaining 33 households that had moved into Inverness
from outside, a majority were from the Highlands or Islands. However the city was a significant attractor from further afield:

• 55 per cent came from elsewhere in the Highlands and Islands
• 30 per cent came from elsewhere in Scotland
• 12 per cent came from elsewhere in the UK
• 3 per cent came from overseas

The movers were, not surprisingly, different from the population of the area as a whole: they were more professional, and much more likely to work in the public sector:

The consultants concluded,

This study has demonstrated that a combination of factors have contributed to
the growth of Inverness. In isolation, none would have been sufficient.

Third (among these factors) has been a self-conscious management process of the city-region’s growth. This has required an acceptance by people we have called ‘shakers’ in institutions – including local government, the enterprise network and other quangos, the constellation of (small r) regional politicians and officials - and by local business people with both private and altruistic motives that enough development will not happen without rational thought and energy and ingenuity being devoted to it, and without, when necessary, committing significant resources.

Read the full consultant's report at:

(This report was commissioned by the regional development agency, Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE), and the local enterprise company, Inverness and Nairn Enterprise (INE). The contractor was cogentsi, Cogent Strategies International Ltd, a company that specialises in the processes of growth and in particular their relation to industry. March 2004.)

How does the Inverness Local Plan (ILP) represent Inverness College / UHI?

The local plan states in the section, "Further forward beyond 2011", paragraph, "A competitive place":

"Having struggled to attract the resources for the A9-A82 Trunk Road Link an innovative funding package has now secured its completion. In the city centre, another ghost was finally laid with the opening of the new Inverness integrated passenger terminal and interchange. This sits across the ‘through’ line to the north and west, with bus access taken from the earlier Cross Rail link road. Redevelopment was secured as part of a major urban renewal project based upon retail and commercial redevelopment around an enlarged Station Square. This scheme has been carried through and over the railway as part of the enlarged College/UHI quarter, a modern City campus comprising several new Faculties, core facilities, extensive student accommodation along with cultural and leisure outlets – ‘town and gown’ in one place."

and, on page 32 of the ILP,

"RAIL YARD/COLLEGE: (7.0 ha.) north of the City Centre and Cross Rail Link towards the College/Longman "hub". Subject to maintaining rail-related freight uses, land should become available post 2006 for office, leisure and service uses and bulky goods retailing in accordance with 7 above, together with a strong focus for the UHI/Inverness College, which could extend its established campus with faculty buildings/residential halls. Good pedestrian/cycle links are vital to interaction with the Centre. Reservation for access from Harbour Road could be beneficial. The College is currently preparing an options appraisal which will guide its Development and Estates Strategy. The potential or redevelopment/reuse of any surplus property arising in this context may also be addressed in a Development Brief;"

It also states as part of the, 'Strategy', Page 12, 1.23;

"Inverness College has the potential as part of the new University of the Highlands & Islands to play a central role in cementing other
strong links with business, including faculty specialisation, research work and development of intellectual spin-offs upon which the Inverness Area is well placed to capitalise. Land and resources must be found to house campus facilities and fulfil commercial outputs

The full text of the ILP can be found at:

The Inverness Local Plan

The Foreword to the Inverness Local Plan States in part:

"The Local Plan is a key part of the Council’s corporate strategy for the Inverness Area. It addresses issues and opportunities that underpin the Area’s long term prosperity and the aspirations of our people.

The Plan is a blueprint for future action. This is a framework for investing in our communities, harnessing local assets and working with many agencies and other bodies towards a better future.

This is the Plan adopted by The Highland Council on 2 March 2006. "

Friday, 3 July 2009

A little matter of water; A one day CIWEM-CLG conference

We at APT subscribe to a number of newsletters . One recent copy of the CIWEM (see below) electronic newsletter struck a chord this week, since potential sources of water for the all the planned developments have been the subject of much discussion amongst APT members.

The newsletter outlined that:

Communities and Local Government, CIWEM & Defra are holding a one day conference in London on the 8th July for planning professionals from local and regional authorities and water professionals responsible for flooding, water resources, quality, regeneration and development to help develop effective guidance on water and planning. Over 140 delegates from 77 organisations are currently attending this conference.

The aim of this conference is to identify areas where the planning system has a role, and where planners need support on water issues in order to focus clear guidance to planners to ensure that water issues are embedded in regional and local plan making, and in decisions on individual planning applications to further sustainable development.

Planners can’t take water for granted. For years planners have been assured that the Environment Agency and Water Companies would solve all their water issues. This view is changing and fast.

Extreme events and climate change. The release of the new climate change projections and adaptation requirements on public bodies highlight the impact of extreme droughts and flash flooding. They are being recognised as normal and likely to worsen in response to climate change. Responses to these drivers for existing buildings, regeneration and development are likely to be very challenging.

Scottish water are working with Highland Council with respect to development proposals in Highland and currently Scottish Water maintain that water supply was not a constraint on development in the A96 Corridor, where likely new sources were the Ness or the Farigaig (?).

However the availability of precious water resource is clearly an issue that is of concern to many members, as is the issue of flooding, and they are issues which, I am sure, we will continue to take a keen interest in.

The Chartered Institution of Water and Environmental Management (CIWEM) is an independent professional body and registered charity, advancing the science and practice of water and environment management for a clean, green and sustainable world.

A little matter of water: New hydro power projects planned

The BBC news web pages reported on Monday that:

Scottish and Southern Energy has announced plans for a further two major hydro power projects in the Highlands.

The Perth-based company said the projects in the Great Glen would be the first developed in Britain since 1974.

The proposals were made ahead of the official opening of the Glendoe hydro electric station near Loch Ness.

Scottish and Southern has not revealed where the two new projects would be built but said they would produce electricity to help meet peak demand.

The system involves two bodies of water, located at different heights.
During periods of low demand for power, electricity is used to pump water from the lower loch to the upper reservoir and this water is then released to create power at a time when demand is high.

We wonder what impact that may have on plans for water abstraction to cover the major development proposals in the Inverness - Nairn area?

Thursday, 2 July 2009

My Nairn;

The My Nairn blog has picked up on the 7N Architects: Balblair project and this strand has illicited a lot of comment, including some from APTSec.

keep up the good work

Why don't we know what a Main Issues Report is?

APTSec is still trying, in the absence of an 'easy guide to planning' which covers the new planning system, to explain and understand just what is going on.

I have come across something on the S Government web pages, "Consultation on the Modernisation of the Planning System with 'Seldom Heard' Groups" which contains a little bit on what this Main Issues Report MIR - really the first document we'll see as part of this new Highland wide Plan - is supposed to be.

Sitting in 'Annex B - Scottish Government basis for questions (in this consultation)', it says,

"With a view to facilitating and informing their work in preparing a LDP, Section 17 of the Act requires planning authorities to first compile a main issues report ( MIR). This is not intended to be a draft plan, but should focus on the key issues that are changing from the last plan.

The MIR must set out the authority's general proposals for development in the area and in particular proposals as to where development should and should not occur. The proposals must be explained sufficiently clearly and precisely to enable people to understand what is proposed and to make meaningful comments."


"The publication of the MIR is intended to be the principal opportunity within the plan preparation process for productively consulting stakeholders on the content of the plan and for involving the wider public. It is therefore essential that engagement with the public at this stage is as full and open as it can be."

I'll keep looking and asking for more guidance.

Countdown to Development Plan

46 days and counting

Message from The Highland Council

APTSec has just received the following:

To keep you up to date with the work carried out by the Development Plans Team at the Highland Council today sees the launch of the new Blog for the Highland wide Local Development Plan. The Blog will be updated regularly with information on meetings and events hosted and attended by the Development Plans Team at the Council.

The Blog can be viewed at and is backdated to the official launch of the Highland wide Local Development Plan with the Scottish Government on the 20th February 2009.

If you would like any additional information on the work of the Development Plans Team please reply to this e-mail.

Kind Regards,

The Development Plans Team

Planning and Development Services
The Highland Council
Glenurquhart Road

Telephone 01463 702261

Happy contacting folks

Wednesday, 1 July 2009

APT news for the rest of the week

Ideas, news and views are stacking up this end so why not join the blog to the end of the week to find out more about the:

"Upset over Ardersier village house plans change"

"APT member's comments on urbanism and local development"

"Politics and planning"

"What APT has been doing and with whom"

"A small matter of water"

"Just who was asked what and when?"

Highland Council is seeking the public's view on allotment Gardening

The following is to be found amongst The Highland Council's web pages:

"Shaping Allotment Policy (23/06/09)

The Highland Council is seeking the views of the public in shaping its policy on allotment gardening.

The Council is keen to promote allotments and the purpose of the policy is to establish the principles which will guide its partnership with community groups and other organisations in establishing and managing allotments.

In order to promote an inclusive policy and to encourage widespread involvement in allotment gardening, the Council proposes to consider interest from any individual or family resident in the Council area; community groups; voluntary sector organisations and charities as well as statutory organisations (eg schools, health centres, etc).

Whilst allotments may not be used for commercial purposes, allotments legislation allows for the selling of surplus produce from allotment gardens. The Council will consider use of it’s powers to advance wellbeing, embodied in the Local Government in Scotland Act 2003, to facilitate use of allotments for community-based food production projects where this is seen to benefit the wellbeing of the community.

Councillor Isobel MacCallum, Chairman of the Council’s Land Environment and Sustainable Strategy Group,, said: “Allotment gardening offers many benefits to individuals, families and communities, including health and wellbeing benefits, an opportunity to exchange information and very local food.”

Consultation responses are invited before the deadline of Friday 11 September, in writing to Keith Walker, Policy Officer, The Highland Council, Glenurquhart Road, Inverness, IV3 5NX or by email to"

I discovered it by reading 'The Nairnshire'

APT in Action; a reminder

A reminder

Don't forget that APT will be at the Spectrum centre in Inverness this evening from 7pm until 9pm for the third of the 'drop in sessions'.

What does APT do in practice?

Besides running the blog?

One task from yesterday; An APT contact drew this 'Homes for Scotland' event to APTSec's attention:

"In association with Turley Associates, Homes for Scotland is holding a programme of member briefings on issues arising from planning reform. Having already focused on the new Development Management and Development Planning regulations, this event will consider Community Engagement and Consultation.

Start Time: 05 Aug 2009 14:00 End Time: 05 Aug 2009 16:00 Venue: tbc Location: Glasgow"

I e mailed 'Homes for Scotland' as below

"I have noted with interest your briefing on planning reform due to take place on 050809.

As the secretary of a community action group, one of the objectives of which is to strengthen the participation of local people in the planning process, I would be very interested to find out more about how your organisation plans to consider community engagement and consultation at this event.

Sadly levels of public cynicism have risen sharply with respect to the prospects for any genuine and meaningful engagement within the planning system which is a great shame given that, as it says in the consolidated SPP:

Where effectively undertaken, early community engagement can speed up planning processes and lead to better plans, decisions and more satisfactory outcomes

Further the planning modernisation agenda recognises that:

Scotland needs a system that will restore confidence in planning and revitalise it as a critical tool for shaping the future of cities, towns and rural areas. Changes to legislation alone will not deliver planning reform. Positive changes to processes and behaviours are required of all the organisations and individuals that operate and interact with the system

I look forward to your reply"

Of course, I'll let you know how what the outcome was.

{From their web site: "Homes for Scotland represents the country’s private home building industry - an industry which, prior to the onset of the credit crunch, was the largest source of private investment in the Scottish economy, contributing around £6bn and directly impacting the employment of 100,000 people in 2006.Our membership of over 200 home building and associate member companies provides 95% of all new homes built for sale in Scotland". A link to their website is on the blog}

Rumours abound re readiness of new Development Plan

Sharp eyed readers will have noticed that Highland Council said in yesterday's Development Plan Countdown:

"We are still on track... the official start to the consultation will be the 17th August."

But what wasn't said was how long the consultation was going to be for.

Is it because THC Planners have now had a change of heart or a change of circumstance given that this blog reported on, 'Speakeasy' update part 2:

"Mr Macleod mentioned to an attendee that the public-consultation period in Aug-Sept 09 might be extended."

However another source has told APTSec that the Main Issues Report may not be ready

Still, as far as I am aware now:

We have only 48 days to go before the official start of the consultation.

Tuesday, 30 June 2009

Help our high street submissions

Submissions made during the 'Support our High Street Campaign' can be found at the link below.

Do you think your high street needs a makeover? Do you think your community should get some of the £60 million available to help your town centre? Catch up with how the people of Scotland answered these questions by looking at the submissions. People responded from all over Scotland and locally from Kingussie, Inverness and Nairn

What's someone like you doing visiting a blog like this?

The post, "Who reads the blogs anyway?" has illicited the most comments to date and the last comment posted by Bill has sparked off an idea.

Bill felt that we were being a bit discreet and needed to give the reader more of an idea as to who we at Action for Planning Transparency were and what we represented.

Bill also felt that we could be a little more 'populist' in our approach so that the posts did not appear as bland.

So, how about if, as a start, some of our blog readers / members tell the blog what attracts them to a group like APT.

Countdown to Development Plan

I have received a response to my request of the development plans team at Highland Council regarding when the Main Issues Report will be available. It stated:

"We are still on track with the Main Issues Report and it will be going before PED Committee on the 12th August 2009 with it associated draft Environmental Report.

We intend to make the Main Issues Report available online from the 14th August 2009 and we will begin our mail-shot to those on our consultation database on the 14th August however the official start to the consultation will be the 17th August. Further details will appear online over the coming weeks

So as far as our Countdown goes:

We have only 48 days to go before the official start of the consultation.

Monday, 29 June 2009

New Urbanism under the spotlight

I came across an item in Architecture Scotland, written by Willie Miller,

The item contains the words:

Andres Duany of DPZ was recently described by Jim Mackinnon, Chief Planner at the Scottish Government as Ă”the Tiger Woods of town planning' and while he is lauded by the Scottish Government he, and the traditional urbanism project in general, are held in particularly low regard by many Scottish architects.” And,

The Scottish Government has clearly taken urbanism issues seriously with a slew of publications aimed at increasing the standard of new development, a curiosity about how high standards are attained in other countries and initiatives such as Design Awareness Training for Council officers and elected members through the Improvement Service and the recent Scottish Sustainable Communities Initiative.”

The item goes on to say,

The reasons for this adoption of traditional urbanism are fairly obvious. Firstly, volume builder residential developments are not improving and there is little sign that they will. Planners are usually unable to make significant positive changes to these developments despite a plethora of conditions, design briefs and codes. Many are wrong from the outset. Secondly, a proportion of sites allocated in Local Plans for housing are often ill-chosen in relation to their potential impact on the town, transport, intrusion in the landscape and on habitats and a standard product residential development will usually exacerbate these difficulties. Traditional urbanism is by its nature sensitive to context and place and has principles and methods of practice that create developments embodying much of what is regarded today as best practice in planning and urban design so even on a poor site, it will create a more sensitive response.”

One of the keys to creating this plan is that Moray Estates has been in the area for hundreds of years and intend remaining there and so can afford to take a long term view of the development. The current estimate is that it might take 20 years to complete so this is no short term business like most of the house building industry. “The parallels with Poundbury will not have gone unnoticed. On the face of it, Duany and the local communities around Tornagrain have succeeded in producing an well structured proposal for a mixed use settlement encompassing principles of walkability, variety of dwelling types, local shopping, schools and traffic attenuation.”

Moray Estates maintain that over the twenty year development period for the town, it is inevitable that there will be variations in style but for now they are content to let the code produce an appropriate range of traditional buildings for the town.”

What distinguishes this recent urbanism in Scotland is the emphasis on the principles of town making and urban structure, the inclusiveness of the plan making process involving local communities, the elevation of sustainability to the status of core issue and the de-emphasis of architecture as end product. Another factor common to all these developments is that they are all being promoted by major landowners who are in the developments for the long term.”

The full article can be found at:

I sent out an e mail to members and contacts drawing attention to this article and a good number of responses were received. Some of the feedback included:

"The Charette process is a process designed to "achieve buy-in" to something the developers have already decided on..."

"The new town will be too big for a cosy village with an authentic village life (as pictures suggest) and too small (and old fashioned) for an exciting city life."

"I can only repeat that I feel this type of architecture and urbanism (Disney Land) does not reflect future life style and will not meet the needs/well being of future generations.
It is backward-looking and narrow minded."

"The whole article presupposes that the community's agree with the development ,did the author bother to ask for any local opinion or just quote a hand out from the developer..."

"Scottish Government seems hell bent on influencing the decision making process for the planning application for Tornagrain. What confidence do we have that councillors and in fact ministers should it come to that can now make an impartial decision..."

"I think both the Moray Estates and the Scottish Government are right to be concerned about urban town planning, and I can see why they have proposed the design they have. However it has not really addressed the issues of 21st c, and instead is trying to create a pastiche 18th c. Town. That's why 'traditional urbanism' is not much favoured by architects. It will be a fake like Disneyland. It would be better to go back to first principles and look at what sort of town we actually need now,-and where, and why."

"I was not personally involved in the consultations. However I understand that these focussed on details rather than the substantive issues and did not question the need for a town in the first place. I am not convinced this was the success it is claimed to be but may be wrong."

"I can see that the Scottish Government would seize on this as an example in trying to promote a change from standard development practice - it should get people thinking and that's good. But when you start to think about it, this is the wrong development, in the wrong place."

"Final comment on the comparisons with Poundbury - I did dig up something on the Internet in March that car usage in Poundbury is higher than the average for Dorset and also for the UK as a whole. I can try and find again if this is something that you wish to cite."

"My personal opinion was that it (the charrette) was a wonderful experience for me..."

Join the blog tomorrow to continue the debate on New Urbanism.

'Speakeasy' update part 2

As promised more notes from the 'Speakeasy'.

Scottish Water

After a technical description of who was responsible for the upstream and downstream elements of the water network, various points emerged:

1 SR10 expansion at Ardersier was under way, and the planned Airport Business Park, Tornagrain and Whiteness would feed into (or be pumped) there.

2 Nairn had “limited capacity” for treatment of the planned developments at Delnies, Sandown, South Nairn, and elsewhere. And the Nairn sewage network would be “unable to accommodate” Delnies and Sandown.

3 On water supply, capacity exists, but new sources would have to be found. Modelling work was still being done.

4 In answer to a question, Scottish Water maintained that water supply was not a constraint on development. Likely new sources were the Ness or the Farigaig (?). But waste water capacity was clearly an issue for development in Nairn.

Open Mike Session

Ewen Anderson (7N Architects), retained by Balblair, spoke about his alternative vision for Nairn development. The bypass, envisaged within the 20-40 year timescale of the A96 corridor plan, would take a long time to materialise. It would risk stimulating ‘ring road development’ leaving a void between the existing town and the building along the line of the expected bypass. Nairn should grow organically as a walking town (sic), with development infilling existing wedges of land, and the creation of inner distributor roads to relieve A96 traffic

Graham Vine expressed concern about the high-density concrete-jungle building proposals at Sandown, described the threat of rat-running, and asked if the adjacent section of the A96 could be “de-trunked” to permit more access points for the expected Sandown/Delnies traffic. The HC and TS answer was effectively “No”.


In conversation in the margins, Derrick Thomson of Scotia Homes said that their intended second round of local consultation in Nairn involving the Prince’s Foundation for the Built Environment had been deferred because of the lack of clarity and progress on – in particular – the Nairn bypass planning and funding. But he expressed interest in having a discussion with local Community Councils and others who might be interested in exploring the possible vision(s) for Nairn’s future development.

The general feedback feeling from members on the ground was that not a lot of new information emerged. Transport Scotland are having to be circumspect. They did admit that the commitment on the new Forth bridge would pre-empt or preclude expenditure on many other strategic transport projects. There was a feeling that is was clear that HC and Halcrow are determined to protect and perpetuate the existing A96 Corridor Plan. It seemed that Scott Davidson of Halcrow made vigorous efforts to justify and defend his Plan when challenged after the meeting.

Apparently HC feel under time-pressure to keep to the schedule for the new Highland-wide Local Development Plan – and Mr Macleod mentioned to an attendee that the public-consultation period in Aug-Sept 09 might be extended.

See Blog 'Countdown begins'

Countdown begins!

There are only 49 days to go by my reckoning before we will be given just 6 weeks to comment on one of the most far reaching plans that The Highland Council as ever proposed.

Go to

to find out more about The Highland Council's programme for preparing and reviewing the local development plans. (Making Places: Highland Development Plan Scheme)

To read the relevant minute of the Planning, Environment and Development Committee from 20/05/09 go to

As the minute for agenda item 14 records, "It was intended that the consultation period would run from 17 August to 25 September 2009", and

"The Committee NOTED the progress on the production of the Highland Wide Local Development Plan and AGREED that:

i. a Members’ workshop be held in June 2009 to discuss the draft Main Issues Report; and

ii. the Main Issues Report be brought before the Committee in August 2009, before going out for public consultation."

APTSec will confirm that this timetable is still on track, and will ask our councillors for feedback on the Main Issues Report Workshop. Perhaps APT members and contacts would like to join me in asking for feedback.

(The Development Plan Scheme does state 14/08/09 to 25/09/09 for the 6 weeks)