Friday, 31 July 2009

Highland Council have updated their blog

Back in June when THC announced their planning blog,

"Thursday, 18 June 2009

New Blog!!
Welcome to the Highland wide Local Development Plan Blog!This blog will be updated on a regular basis giving you information on the work carried out by the Development Plans Team at The Highland Council.This blog will be updated and monitored by the Development Plans Team and contain information on meetings we have attended, workshops we have ran and consultation events which will be occurring.We will be backdating some of the information so we can let you know what meetings and events we have been a part of to date.If you have any comments on the content of this blog please email "

they stated they would backdate some of the information. There are now entries going back to February 20 for your information.

Highland-wide Local Development Plan: history

So why are we having a Highland-wide Local Development Plan? The following is an extract from a report to a meeting of the Planning, Development, Europe and Tourism committee on 31 January 2007:

"The purpose of this report is to set out the requirements for Development Plans arising from the Planning etc. (Scotland) Act 2006 and to identify the key challenges for The Council in seeking to deliver them. The report recommends that work is progressed during 2007 on a Highland Wide Local Development Plan to replace parts of the Highland Structure Plan as well as to inform the next Scottish Executive National Planning Framework which is expected to be published in 2008. Committee approval is also sought on the principle of moving towards a coverage below this strategic level of three Local Development Plans for Highland and that the current work programme be rearranged to accommodate this.

2.1 There are a number of key challenges for the Council in delivering the Development Plans which are envisaged under the new Act. These are summarised here to provide the context to the proposals outlined in the next part of this report.

2.5 Key Challenge 2:

The delivery of a clear vision and spatial strategy for land use in the Highlands through the preparation of strategic guidance, which will fully inform National Planning Framework 2, due for publication in 2008. This exercise must be shared by our community planning partners – the Development Plan must be the land use element of the Community Plan.

2.6 As Members are already aware, the Planning Act makes no provision for the preparation of a replacement Highland Structure Plan. However Members will see from the draft Development Plan Scheme shown in Appendix 1, I am suggesting that the Committee consider the preparation of a Highland-wide Local Development Plan to deal with strategic issues across the Council area. This Plan will comprise the vision and spatial strategy for the area, as well as set out the strategic policy framework. If this is the preferred way forward, the content of such a document may include:

• Strategic Development Context in terms of Population Change, Household Change, economic prospects (linked to HIE strategy), Housing Land Supply, Strategic Industrial and Business land Supply, Infrastructure priorities

• Key Strategic Policies – Design for Sustainability, Housing, Retailing, Waste Management, Natural and Cultural Heritage, Renewable Energy, Transport priorities etc

• Key Strategic Action/Regeneration Areas - e.g. A96 Corridor, Inverness Action Areas (Torvean, Longman, Muirtown, Campus etc), Dounreay, Invergordon, Nigg, Evanton, Fort William Waterfront, etc.

• Spatial Strategy – key diagram which would form the basis of our lobbying commitments

2.7 The timescale for the delivery of this Highland-wide document will be critical given the ongoing preparation of the National Planning Framework, which is to be delivered in 2008. It is therefore necessary to start work now on an Issues Report for approval by the new Committee some time in Autumn 2007 to enable some public consultation, and to give the document some status, before ultimately becoming the formal LDP. In the interim, it could be a powerful Highland contribution to the suggested content of the National Planning Framework."

Director of Planning & Development
Date: 25 January, 2007
Author: Malcolm Macleod, Policy & Information Manager

The dates all all askew but that might well form the subject of another post.

I am sure you will agree that it does make for very interesting reading.

Monday, 27 July 2009

"A World Leader in Green Rhetoric"

BBC radio 4 had a number of very interesting items on You and Yours today

Listen in to hear interviews relating to sustainability and all that 'Green Rhetoric'; HMO's in Rhyl and how we deal with the 'undeserving rich'.

Countdown to Development Plan

21 days to go.

Sunday, 26 July 2009

So just how do we influence these new Highland plans?

Mr Hartland, Head of Planning and Building Standards provided the following additional information recently:

"A letter from the Scottish Government to the Council last week offered some clarification on the main issues report (MIR)"

The MIR is not intended to be a full draft plan as under the old system. As the name suggests it should identify the main issues that the Plan needs to address, highlighting the key changes from the last approved - adopted Plan and outlining the proposed sites for development and their alternatives. MIRs should not be a tick-box exercise but should seek to address the issues where the Council is genuinely seeking help in finding the best way forward. As it is primarily an engagement tool, consideration must be given to accessibility and simplicity in order to draw the most useful responses from the public and partner organisations. Technical, inaccessible documents will fail in this regard. Consideration must also be given to the overall objectives of shorter map based Development Plans. Clearly the way in which the MIR is delivered and the extent to which it is genuinely spatial will strongly influence the final product”.

What it does not say is how the responses to this engagement should influence the proposed plan.

Quite frankly where it counts it is still as clear as mud.

Why we should care about our development plans?

So why should we get involved in the consultation on the new Highland wide Development Plan?

Planning Advice Note (PAN)81 says to us:

22 The law requires that any planning application be determined in accordance with the development plan, unless there are material considerations that indicate that a different decision should be taken. It is therefore essential that people are given adequate opportunities to participate in the preparation of the development plan. It is often too late for people to object to the principle of an allocated use at the stage when it becomes subject to a planning application. It is the role of the planning authority and elected Councillors to promote a wider sense of public awareness of development plans by engaging actively with the people that they represent. The community too has an important role in engaging early with the planning authority as all parties need to have a common understanding of the issues. Greater recognition of the importance of development plans will result in more active engagement by the public and other parties in preparing those plans.

Almost 2 years ago now APTSec had a conversation with a senior planner at the Government Planning Directorate in Edinburgh and this is what he said in relation to a question that I asked on allocated land use:

"I'm not aware that we've formally defined the term 'allocated land use'. But what is usually meant are specific proposals in development plans, particularly local plans, that propose that specific areas of land should be developed or used for one or more particular purposes. These proposals will normally be illustrated by a notation on the local plan proposals map. So for instance, identifying a particular field for housing development"

"To determine what the site-specific land use allocations are in your area, you should refer to the adopted local plan. Any site-specific proposal in a local plan for the use or development of land could be termed a land-use allocation.

It is the development plan (by making land use allocations as described above) that establishes the principle that areas of land may appropriately be used/ developed for particular uses. So what I think para 22 of PAN 81 is saying is that if members of the community have 'in principle' concerns about the use that areas of land should be put to, these are best raised during the development plan process. When a planning application is made for site already allocated for that use in a local plan, debate is largely limited to matters of detail."

It is not quite, 'speak now or forever hold your piece' with regard to the development plan process since there may well be strong material considerations in relation to a specific area of land when it comes to determining the individual application, but, the importance of the development plan to the planning process is well highlighted in the paragraphs above.

The Highland Council's consultation on the Main Issues Report is due to begin on the 17th August.

The losers in the population share stakes

APTSec has taken out her calculator once again and put some numbers to the aspiration for population growth across the HIE area.

Some basic maths seems to indicate that Argyll and the Islands, Eilean Siar, Moray and Shetland will be losers in the population share stakes.

A thread from 'My Nairn'...

A recent post on the My Nairn blog:

"Nairn Property Still Relatively Cheap" generated 9 comments and set me thinking, 'who can really afford to buy property?'

For a quick snapshot of prices and availability I looked at the latest HSPC property paper and discovered that in Nairn there are:

3 properties between 75K and 100K
14 between 100k and 150K
13 in the range 150-200K
17 in the range 200-250K
7 in the range 250-300K
2 in the range 300-400K
2 in the range 400-500K


In a world where two incomes are generally needed to service a mortgage household sizes are decreasing which is given as one of the main reasons why we need to build more property.

For mortgage payments to be affordable they should take up no more than 25% disposable income.

First time buyers are a vital part of the housing market.

As an exercise I visited a few sites with mortgage calculators to see just how a single first time buyer on a salary of £21,500 per annum would fair and came up with an interesting combination of results:

It seems that many mortgage deals now have product fees and early repayment charges

It seems that large deposits are required - at least a significant percentage of the amount of loan required.

Other outstanding debts are taken into consideration - not good news for anyone with student loans etc - when determining the amount of the loan

One site offered to lend my fictitious first time buyer 100K on a £658 per month 25 year repayment mortgage but didn't ask me how much the buyer earned.

Another said on the basis of earned income they would be prepared to lend only £45,993

So how can this person afford to buy in Nairn with only 3 properties less than 100K and a 2 bed terrace costing 110k?

Just where do we go from here?

No wonder the market is very slow - it was being fuelled by unrealistic lending which has now been completely withdrawn.

Over to you

The Houses are getting old too

Did you now that Argyll and Bute’s housing stock has an older age profile than the Scottish average. Almost a third of the area’s housing was built before 1919.

It seems that it isn't only the people in Scotland that are getting older.

Skills for the jobs of the future

The /UK Government confirmed recently that 10,000 extra university places this autumn will be restricted to science and business subjects.

The higher education minister outlined six priority areas chosen to "equip young people with the skills they need for the jobs of the future."

The six areas are:

• biological and related health sciences (excluding psychology, sports science and those that are primarily practice-based)

• physical sciences (excluding geography)

• mathematical and computer science

• engineering

• technology

• economics and business studies.