Saturday, 29 August 2009

Highland-wide Local Development Plan; Main Issues Report - on line now!

The Main Issues Report of the Highland-wide Local Development Plan is now available on line at the Highland Council Web site:


Other documents which can be accessed from this web page include The Statutory Notice and the Environmental Report with all its appendices.

Train Whistle Blowing?

With respect to railway improvements and the proposed Dalcross rail halt note that:

John Swinney MSP sent the Scottish Minister’s High Level Output Specification (HLOS), for the period 2009-2014, to the Office of Rail Regulation on 13 July 2007. (See note below)

This HLOS noted in terms of the Highlands:

Infrastructure enhancements required to permit an hourly faster service between Edinburgh and Glasgow and Inverness serving Perth as recommended in the Room for Growth Report and incorporated into the Scotland RUS”.

Infrastructure enhancements to permit an hourly service between Aberdeen and Inverness” (‘General’ – to improve times and service frequencies for either passengers or freight)

These enhancements for the Highlands are listed as 'Tier 3' with all the attendant provisos, namely that 'tier 3' represents:

the further outputs that Scottish Minister may wish to implement to respond to the requirements of the National Transport Strategy. It is recognised that at the time of delivery of this specification the outputs and delivery mechanisms have not been fully developed. Funding for implementation will be provided by Scottish Ministers subject to affordability and the availability of resource of capital”.

Transport Scotland informed APT in early 2008 that:

We will consider the possibility of a station at Dalcross, serving Inverness airport, as part of a package of proposals for the Aberdeen – Inverness line, following the outcome of the HLOS process and through the Strategic Transport Projects Review (STPR). The HLOS affordability process is ongoing with the Rail Regulator and is not expected to be complete until autumn this year”.

The Strategic Transport Projects Review has since been published and the documents can be found on the Transport Scotland web site.

"The STPR has developed a wide range of potential transport projects across the whole of Scotland, informed by projects which had already been put forward by Regional Transport Partnerships and Local Authorities as well as new ideas developed through discussions with other stakeholders.

Across Scotland, a total of 29 major packages of work have been identified as best serving
the needs of Scotland and its regions. These have been developed within a three-tiered

A new rail halt at Dalcross forms part of Project 19:

"PROJECT 19 – Rail improvements Between Aberdeen and inverness

To reduce journey time and increase frequency of service on the train between Aberdeen and

Improvements to the rail line between Aberdeen and Inverness as part of this proposal would
include new loops and line speed improvements, dual track sections and a new station at Dalcross with Park & Ride and an interchange to Inverness Airport. This would allow the introduction of more trains per day between Inverness and Aberdeen (at least one per hour) and additional rail services between Nairn and Inverness (two per hour).

Cost estimate: £250-£500 million*.

All you transport enthusiasts out there; APT would welcome your views, given these statements and any facts you may have or will determine through your own knowledge or research, on the likelihood of the provision of a rail halt at Dalcross near Inverness Airport.

Remember a rail halt is absolutely necessary to the success of the 'Transport' option that is the whole basis for the A96 Growth Corridor Framework, and the idea of a transport hub at the airport is followed through from the local plan.


[The High Level Output Specification (HLOS) process

A statement of the outputs Scottish Ministers wish to purchase from the rail industry during the next regulatory control period for track access charges.

A responsibility created under the Railways Act 2005.

Required to allow the Office of Rail Regulation to determine whether public sector funding is sufficient to allow Network Rail to deliver industry outputs.

Ministers required to deliver Statement of Funds Available (SoFA) in parallel.]

Friday, 28 August 2009

The 'Transport Option'?

I think we must all be suffering from collective amnesia; that or perhaps we never truly understood what happened in the first place. Either way:

In 2005 a report was published:

Dalcross (A96 Corridor) Smart Growth Masterplan
Phase 1 - Planning Report March 2005.

The report was an overview of the preparation of the Masterplan for the long term development of the A96 Corridor between Inverness and Nairn as a whole. The project adopted what was called a 'Smart Growth'*approach.

Eight development options were considered under this non-statutory master planning process by the business / developer / landowner / government and regulatory stakeholders. According to the consultant's report, after appraisal of these options, the 'Polar Growth' and the 'Transport' options were ranked joint 1st. (Any public involvement came later and only looked at 4 options - but that is a story in itself)

APTSec's understanding is that that the option The Highland Council subsequently supported was the Transport option. The A96 Corridor development is based on the Transport option, with 'Polar Growth' at East Inverness and West Nairn reflected in the Corridor masterplan along with development of the former industrial site at the Ardersier Fabrication yard.

In the words of the consultants, the key elements of this Transport option are:

"This option emphasises sustainable transport solutions to create a functional and attractive environment.

The dualling of the A96 between Raigmore and Nairn appears necessary to maintain the strategic function of the A96.

Due to the adverse and environmental impact of congested traffic within the centre of Nairn, long term growth is one further factor supporting the construction of the Nairn Bypass.

At the Raigmore junction there is limited opportunity for physical expansion, due to the constrained nature of the site. Strategic relief to the roundabout can be achieved by linking the A96 at the retail park to the A9 at Beechwood.

It is considered that an alternative route be developed which did not wholly rely upon the A96 trunk road. Dependent upon the location of the settlements, an upgrading of the B9006 and B9091 beyond Westhill is recommended.

The proposed rail halt at the airport provides a principal focus - a settlement in this area will help to maximise the potential contribution of this station, and help to off-set the disbenefits (sic) of slower end-to-end journey times.

The transport option outlines a high frequency bus services (sic) principally between Inverness to Nairn via a new settlement in the proximity of the airport, wholly to the South of the A96.

Promoting Park and Ride Facilities at Inverness Airport Rail Station and near the Inverness Retail Park on the A96...New rail station at Inverness Airport to serve both the Airport, the proposed industrial development and the proposed new settlement.

Under the 'Transport' option, the consultant's report relates the need for any new settlement to be large and discrete, with as many facilities as possible so as to discourage car use (which would undermine the sustainable objectives), and encourage walking, cycling and bus use.

No other option focused so heavily on transport.

  • The A96 Growth Corridor Framework is the 'Transport' option, without the transport infrastructure a sustainable settlement pattern cannot be supported.

(Faber Maunsell did a transportation analysis as part of the master planning process.)

(*The report states that 'Smart Growth' taps into community expectations to create sustainable places, a strong environmental ethic and more nuanced views of growth).

Transport Scotland meeting - the latest from Highland Council's planning blog

Friday, 28 August 2009

Meeting with Transport Scotland

Malcolm (Macleod, Development Plans Manager) met with Transport Scotland on 26th August in Pitlochry to discuss progress with the updated A96 transport model. Consultants from AECOM (who are doing the work) also attended. Part of the discussion focussed on how we build up a number of "scenarios" of development around Inverness and the A96 Corridor to determine what development can progress from a transport point of view. Malcolm is to meet with colleagues from TEC Services shortly to discuss further. Obviously the outcomes of the consultation on the Main issues Report will be an important guide for this work.

Greyer Generation's Market Domination?

APTSec came across this hugely interesting and somewhat depressing article in Planning Daily written by the editor of The RTPI's Planning Magazine Huw Morris.

"In any recession, headlines focus on rapidly declining house prices, but this only tells part of the story. A housing market revolution is unfolding and it promises bad news for us all. The divide between the haves and have-nots has turned into a chasm.

With many lenders demanding deposits of 40 per cent, most first-time buyers have got the same chance as a snowball in hell of getting on to the housing ladder. Already, almost nine out of ten 18-34-year-olds who do not own a home cannot afford a first-time-buyer property. Bearing in mind that this is the generation saddled with high student debt, the promise of swingeing public service cuts, increased taxation and measly pensions, this is not a good time to be young."

Mr Morris continues:

"Replacing the first-time buyer, however, is an older and wealthier generation who got on to the housing ladder when homes were much more affordable, benefited from free higher education and will collect final salary pensions if they have not done so already. Today's low interest rates mean that they are not only scooping up homes but carving up the buy-to-let market, which is yet another barrier to first-time buyers. Anybody doubting the greyer generation's market domination need only consider that four out of ten homes are now bought without a mortgage"

Mr Morris concludes:

"This aside, there are members of the older generation who were banking on selling their homes to help fund their retirement. They are in quite a bind if their children have nowhere else to live. Moreover, it is an economic fact of life that no market can properly thrive without an injection of new blood.

As long as this mess continues, even today's winners will end up as losers. Who in this country does not rely on key workers at some point? Even the super rich might need a police officer or ambulance driver one day. Housing development often divides opinion. If only both sides could see the welter of social problems on the horizon."

APTSec subscribed to Planning Magazine for a period of time and always found Mr Morris' articles very readable.

Reading publications such as Planning Magazine has certainly helped our group gain a broader and better understanding of planning issues.

Quote of the week

The following appeared in The Scotsman on 270809:

"The recession is a bad recession," he says. "But it doesn't mean to say the money has disappeared in the world. It is all here. It's just gone into a lot fewer pockets."

Thus speaks Malcolm James, who the paper describes as, "...the mastermind behind the most exclusive resort ever planned for Scotland, talks with an almost evangelical zeal about his vision of creating a unique playground for the ultra-rich on his estate in Highland Perthshire."

And only this morning I was thinking about my submission for the HwLDP on the provision of housing for the homeless.

To read the full article click here

Mr James also states in the article:

"A wise person will listen to the whole facts before they make a judgment. It is so easy for anybody to jump to conclusions."

One to watch perhaps as the 'facts' emerge?

How to get a career in Public Relations

No, I am not making a pitch to film the latest Hollywood blockbuster, I am just setting out a few details from industry literature for all those youngsters receiving their exam results who might consider a career in PR.

  • Public relations is one of the most popular career choices today amongst graduates

A public relations (PR) officer uses all forms of media and communication to build, maintain and manage the reputation of organisations ranging from public bodies or services to businesses and voluntary organisations. Reputation arises from what you do, what you say and what others say about you. In this age of fierce competition in all sectors, it can be an organisation's greatest asset. PR aims to manage reputation in order to gain understanding and support, and influence opinion and behaviour

To be effective, an organisation needs to listen to the opinion of those with whom it deals and not solely provide information. Issuing a barrage of propaganda is not enough in today's open society. At its best, public relations not only tells an organisation's story to its publics, it also helps to shape the organisation and the way it works. The practitioner needs to find out the concerns and expectations of a company's publics and explain them to its management.

The annual income of PR consultancies in the UK is estimated at £300 million and the turnover of the industry is estimated at £1 billion. The number of people working in a public relations role in the UK is estimated at around 48,000. The rate of growth in the number of PR jobs at all levels has been higher that that of any management function over the last fifteen years

Career development opportunities within the public relations industry are excellent but competition for job is fierce. Most entrants tend to be graduates, although there are some opportunities for persistent school leavers with relevant work experience. The Chartered Institute of Public Relations (CIPR) is the main professional body for individuals within the PR industry, and publishes a list of approved courses, which provide a good foundation for a career in PR

A personal view of the Proposals for Growth.

APTSec writes:

The Highland Council recommendations for the A96 Corridor came as a complete surprise to me. I had attended a local plan meeting a few years earlier (when relatively new to the area). This meeting was held at the Old School Hall in Ardesier in June 2001 at 8pm; to go to a meeting like this was unusual at the time, and I kept the notes I took.

I would have been unaware then as to how this meeting fitted into the overall scheme of things, but I knew in isolation, at the time, (having looked at my notes from the meeting to refresh my memory), that we were being asked to participate in a 12 week consultation period on a draft 10 year plan. This was 21 June 2001 and several years later I now understand this meeting to have introduced locally THC’s draft Inverness Local Plan, which was to draw 800 individual responses on 2000 issues. Elected Members were advised, during 3 meetings in April 2002, of these responses, with the ILP deposit draft with modifications being published in April 2003. (The City Vision document came out in May 2003).

I also now understand that in 2001 as a member of the public I was participating in a level of consultation as indicated by regulation (with whatever local variation is permissible I’m sure).

A Report by the Director of Planning (signed off on 21 May 2005), and reported to the elected members of the Inverness Area and Nairn Area Committees and later the PDET Committee said that:

Development of the A96 Corridor strategy has already been the subject of significant public consultation through the statutory Development Plan process and the consultant’s masterplanning exercise”.

I think that this misrepresents the level of consultation that the public and community councils actually had on the A96 Corridor master plan, and is very unfair. To my mind, there was little indication during the ILP process as to the scale of development that was later to be proposed as part of the Corridor master plan. I find it difficult to accept assertions by Highland that attempt to link the information provided to me as a member of the public during the statutory local plan process, in the same sentence with the ‘consultation’ on their A96 Corridor Proposal.

I would be very interested to hear of your experiences and understanding of the issues:

Did you attend any of the consultation meetings for the current Inverness or Nairn Local Plans?

Did you attend any of the meetings and focus groups arranged as part of the non-statutory master planning process?

Have you recently moved to the area?

To refer to the report mentioned in this post please visit the Highland Council web page

Thursday, 27 August 2009

An Orange Crystal Ball

Found on the Orange website:

Connected Britain Offers £31.7 Billion Savings to UK Business

They state that, "The ‘Connected Britain’ report explores the workforce of tomorrow, and how the profound opportunities presented to both employees and employers through a digitally connected Britain will shape the way we live and work." The full report can be read by clicking here

To find out how the planners view this report why not visit the RTPI planning blog.

Wednesday, 26 August 2009

What sort of message does this send?

The latest on the HwLDP blog:

"Malcolm met with x, y and z from Scottish Water on 24Th August to discuss the updated position on work underway on the water supply and waste water treatment solutions which might be appropriate for the A96 Corridor. We discussed the current planning applications, and how best to engage with the developers involved as part of the ongoing work on both the development plan and the planning applications themselves."

We are now in a place where planning applications for MAJOR developments have been brought forward in advance of any suitable land allocations via a statutory plan process, but still Scottish Water have a duty to keep abreast of the situation.

Comment on Scotland's Zero Waste Plan

Commenting on the Ministerial announcement regarding Scotland's Zero Waste Plan, Friends of the Earth Scotland's Chief Executive Duncan McLaren said:

"Zero waste is the right goal and we welcome many of the specific proposals announced today, such as targets for re-use of waste, and bans on selected materials going to landfill. However the waste industry response so far has been disappointing. Large incinerators such as those planned for Dunbar, Greengairs and elsewhere have no role to plan in a genuine zero-waste economy. The Government must use this plan to shift activity to the top of the waste hierarchy - reducing waste through good design, and recovering materials and products for reuse - rather than simply changing the disposal method used at the bottom of the hierarchy from dumping to burning.

If Scotland is to make real progress we must - like Flanders, and other advanced European jurisdictions - ban all unsorted waste from both incineration and landfill, ensuring that reduction, recycling and reuse can play their full role, leaving only small residues for use in localised small-scale energy from waste facilities such as anaerobic digesters."

Tuesday, 25 August 2009

...Trees and Design...

From, 'The Trees and Design Action Group' web site:

"The Trees and Design Action Group (TDAG) is a unique multi-disciplinary group of individual professionals and organisations from both the private and public sectors. They have come together under The London Tree and Woodland Framework to collaborate in achieving an increased awareness of the need to bridge the practicality gap that exists between the aspirations to include trees within the built environment and the practical requirements needed to achieve this."

Take a look at case study 6, "High quality landscape and mature trees confer a premium on housing developments"$FILE/london-tdag-6-high-value-housing-canonbury-park.pdf

Monday, 24 August 2009

Zero Waste Plan Consultation

From the Scottish Government's web pages:

Scotland’s Zero Waste Plan Consultation Covering Letter

Waste and Pollution Reduction Division
Deputy Director – Kim Fellows - Tel: 0131-244 - 0235

20 August 2009


Scottish Government are developing a new waste plan for Scotland. This letter is to
inform you of the launch of the consultation on Scotland’s Zero Waste Plan. We are
inviting written or online responses to this consultation paper by 13th November

If you have any queries, please contact Emma Taylor (Email:

or Tel: 0131 244 0312)

Background information and links to the consultation exercise can be found at:

"Cracks appearing..."

The following article appeared in 'The Guardian' on 170809:

'Cracks appearing in Prince Charles's dream village in Poundbury'

  • Residents complain about poorly-finished homes
  • Alleys and corners fuel petty crime, say locals

As always it is the range of comment that an article generates that APTSec finds most fascinating and illuminating.

Enquiry by Design, EBD

The Sunday Times reported yesterday:

"Prince of Wales turns to Joe Public, the architect"

Amongst the quotes were:

"The Prince of Wales has called for more democratic planning laws to allow the public to shape the design of new building developments.

His advocacy of “people’s planning” has already been adopted by the Scottish government after a meeting between the prince and Alex Salmond, the first minister. Now his advisers want the same approach to be formally recognised across the rest of the UK.

Charles believes that residents — instead of architects and planners — should have the biggest say in the development of new communities.

“People feel very disenfranchised by the planning system,” said Hank Dittmar, chief executive of the Prince’s Foundation. “There’s been this notion that planning and architecture belongs to experts. If you’re not an expert, your view doesn’t count. We want to change that."

In Scotland, his foundation is designing six developments — at Cumnock, Ellon, Ballater, Cove, Banchory and Nairn. Last year the prince discussed rolling out EBD across the country with Salmond and Jim Mackinnon, Scotland’s chief planner, during a conference in Edinburgh jointly organised by the foundation and the Scottish government."

Members of APT attended the EBD meetings in Nairn at the end of last year and APTSec found them most unsatisfactory. APTSec left with the view that this was yet another group of landowner/developer/meeting sponsors wishing to seek public support for plans to develop their land, and to seek to use the public support to lobby the local authority.

The public's ideas can only be taken on board if the 'bottom line' supports them. Meetings such as these also afford developers an opportunity to test run ideas to see what kind of opposition they will face or to identify groups which will be supportive. Then of course, pre-application consultation is part of our new planning act anyway.

The land; the countryside, the sea, the river walks and the views this area affords are all valuable and profitable assets. The support that we are asked to give to plans by our participation in the process is an asset too.

"Your task, should you choose to..."

An APT postal mailing recently posed these questions to the Chairpersons and Secretaries of all the Community Councils across Highland:

"Will this Highland-wide plan provide you with the means to keep your schools open; provide you with the water, sewage and road infrastructure to see jobs created and much needed genuinely affordable housing provided? How will development in what the Council defines as ‘key areas’ affect development in your area?

NHS Boards and their Local Authority partners face a huge challenge as the population of Scotland ages markedly. How will this strategic Highland-wide plan relate to the regular expense of providing for health and social care services and fit with coordinated commissioning of patient services?

What land use will make your communities prosper whilst safeguarding your landscape and heritage for future generations?"

We then forwarded the Community Councillor's letter electronically to all the Elected Members in The Highland Council along with a note for them which stated in part:

"The Main Issues Report, MIR, should be a genuine opportunity for communities across Highland to look realistically and objectively at what the future may bring and to provide strong and positive comment with respect to the serious challenges that face us all. Indeed Planning Aid Scotland informed us that the Government is hoping that (in general terms) an MIR will provide an opportunity for members of the public to put forward their thoughts about any planning matter, from land allocation to the wording of planning policies.

Our treasurer has introduced the committee to the concept of deliberative public engagement as a means of helping to create better public services; promoting social cohesion and fostering a thriving community. The APT committee is concerned that given that there is a degree of expressed dissatisfaction with the planning process there is a very real possibility that the public will be deterred from participating in this important stage of the statutory development plan process on the basis of past negative experiences during non-statutory participation.

In the light of this we seek reassurance that Elected Members will be engaging with their communities to promote and ensure full and active community participation in the preparation of new plans for Highland.

Further, we seek reassurance that if the public once more makes an effort to respond to a consultation there will be sufficient time available, not only for the officers of Highland Council to consider the views put forward on the MIR, but for Elected Members to consider how the responses to the MIR across Highland have influenced the content of the Proposed Highland-wide LDP."

It is the Elected Members of Highland Council who will make the decision as to whether the content of the 'Proposed Highland-wide Local Development Plan' - which will be prepared based on the views expressed during the consultation on the Main Issues Report - truly reflects measured consideration of the views that were put forward.

During the forthcoming 10 weeks consultation on the HwLDP it is up to US to make sure that we tell our planning authority just how we feel about the consultation and just how much we care about making the places we live in the Highlands the best that they can be.

Countdown to Development Plan

Just 7 days to go!