Saturday, 5 September 2009

Focus on Sutherland

Take a look at these paragraphs from the Key Forecast section of the November 2008 Deposit Draft of the Sutherland local plan.

They do not look too encouraging from the point of view of helping to achieve the aspiration to grow the population throughout the Highlands to 500,000; what do you think?

"As shown in Table 1, the 2008 population of Sutherland is estimated to reach 13,956.
Using national data and accepted pan-Highland assumptions this is projected to decrease by
2% by 2018. Deaths will continue to outnumber births and whilst overall there is set to be
positive in-migration this will be insufficient to offset the losses of population. Despite this,
there would be a 6% increase in the number of households due to changing patterns of
households and this means that some housing development would be necessary to cater for
the population’s needs.

In common with the rest of Highland, the population of Sutherland is ageing and this
trend is expected to continue. The age profile of the Area’s population is projected to change
significantly over the next 10 years. The number of older people is set to increase whereas
the number of core workforce and young people is set to decrease. A 29% growth in those 65
or older and a 24% decline in children are the headlines. This is due to declining birth rates,
the inevitable ageing on of the current population, the older age profile of in-migrants and the
continued out-migration of young adults. However, it is also important to note that the core
workforce would fall by 9% which could reduce the economic output of the area and hinder
the ability to provide and run the necessary services to sustain Sutherland’s communities.

Against this backdrop, the overarching aim of the Community Strategy for Sutherland

“Positively influencing population change in Sutherland to achieve, over time, a vibrant, viable
and revitalised population that enjoys a high quality of life.”

In line with this aim and the Local Plan’s vision and objectives, the strategy of this Local Plan
is therefore based on increasing in-migration and reducing out-migration (particularly of young people). This will of course also have the added benefit of sustaining local primary schools and other facilities. The Plan’s provisions are therefore based not on Table 1 but on a vision of maintaining a stable working age population (in terms of number of people) to 2026, as illustrated in Table 2.

Table 2 – Vision for stable working age population

Projection 2008 2018 2008-18 Change

Population 14225 15066 +841 (+6%)

Younger People (0-15) 2151 1868 -283 (-13%)

Core Workforce (16-64) 8706 8725 +19 (+0%)

Older People (65+) 3368 4473 +1105 (+33%)

Households 6805 7691 +886 (+13%)

Additional dwellings (Houses) Required
2008-2018 (assumes a similar proportion of
future second / holiday home ownership and
a 25% flexibility allowance to allow
developers a choice of landowners, locations
and markets)
+1304 (c. +130 p.a.)

* based on former areas; Edderton was not in Sutherland."

Friday, 4 September 2009

Planners Network UK

Planners Network UK (pnuk) is an organisation seeking to establish a network to support critical thinking about the current state of planning in the UK

Their web site features a Draft Statement of Principles for PNUK:

"We are a network of people who believe in the transformative possibilities of planning and who wish to revitalise its social, political and environmental significance. Yet we are concerned about the corrosiveness of contemporary agendas that systematically produce injustice, undemocratic decision-making, inequality, and harm to our environment. In the face of those agendas, we have formed this network to provide an umbrella under which people can do two inter-related things:

Talk – where people can debate and share critical perspectives on mainstream dogma, and keep principles of justice on political agendas; and

Act – where people can work for progressive change by developing viable alternatives PNUK offers a forum for talk and action to bring about fundamental change through planning."


"...hope that the network can appeal to a broad range of practitioners, academics and activists interested in rearticulating the progressive purpose of planning. Most importantly we hope to establish the basis for connecting all those concerned about the current climate of debate."

APSec has just been joined up to the pnuk e mail list and will shortly submit details about APT and our concerns to the network via the list.

For more information on pnuk click here

APT contacts Transport Scotland

Further to the e mail to our MSPs / MP regarding our concerns on transport infrastructure and replies from 2 MSPs, APTSec telephoned and subsequently e mailed Transport Scotland.

{...Thank you very much for our most pleasant conversation this morning, and I am terribly sorry if I disturbed you at an inconvenient moment.

Please find attached my rather business like e mail to our local politicians regarding the possibility of setting up a meeting between the public and a representative (s) of Transport Scotland.

In his reply to our e mail Peter Peacock (MSP) stated:

“…it would certainly be a good idea in the first instance if the group contacted the agency to arrange a meeting. However, if there are difficulties in achieving this then I would be happy to take up the matter on the group’s behalf.”

You asked for a little more information on our group; our objectives are listed below in the signature along with a link to the latest items on our blog - and via this feed page a link to our blog itself.

Yours in anticipation,...}

Transport Scotland has responded pleasantly:

"Thank you your phone call and email. We are currently considering your request for a meeting to discuss the strategic transport issues associated with the Highland Wide Local Development Plan Main Issues Report. We will respond to this request shortly..."

The APT Committee looks forward to being able to announce that this meeting will take place.

Blog readers may wish to leave a comment.

The importance of transport

APTSec sent the following by e mail on to 3 MSPs and our MP on 310809:

{The subject of transport figured heavily as work was done this weekend on a number of planning related items for the APT Blog.

It has become clear that the provision of transport infrastructure is absolutely and unarguably vital to the success of any proposals within the forthcoming Development Plans for the Highlands.

The public are being advised that they can participate in a consultation on the Main Issues Report for the Highland wide Local Development Plan but without access to further information on transport issues from Transport Scotland this participation will be severely restricted. The committee is aware that The Highland Council has a blog and is having meetings with community councils across Highland.

I believe wholeheartedly, based on the hard work and experience of APT, that a public meeting MUST be held with members of Transport Scotland to enable members of the public to determination from first hand information the status of any transport issues. I also believe that this meeting should take place in the interests of openness and transparency. If the public is denied access to direct and unfiltered information then it will be a significant barrier to participation.

Our Group is uncertain as to how such a meeting could be set up but feel that the likelihood of the meeting taking place would be enhanced through the support of our local politicians.

The committee has noted that Transport Scotland meets with The Highland Council and representatives of Transport Scotland have spoken at a developer’s forum which a few Community Councillors attended – the developer’s forum however was never intended to have a public focus.

I will be sending this e mail to:

Fergus Ewing MSP
Peter Peacock MSP
Mary Scanlon MSP
Danny Alexander MP

I look forward to your reply.

The consultation on the Main Issues report officially starts today for 10 weeks. The issues are hugely complex and we would need the meeting to take place within the next 6 weeks (8 at the latest) to allow time for members of the public to submit their responses to the consultation.}

So far APTSec has had 2 replies.

APT members and contacts keep APTSec on the ball

Many thanks to a local Community Councillor and faithful APT member for keeping me up to date and on the ball with notification of the next ward forum meeting for our area.

Culloden and Ardersier Ward Forum Focuses on Highland Wide Development Plan (04/09/09)

The next meeting of The Highland Council’s Culloden and Ardersier Ward Forum will be held at 7.30pm on Monday 7 September in Culloden Academy to discuss the new Highland Wide Local Development Plan.

The Plan sets out the strategy, policy and vision for the Highlands over the next 10-20 years and will provide clear policy guidance for all types of development. It will update and replace parts of the Highland Structure Plan as well as parts of existing Local Plans which cover strategic policy issues. It will also set the context for the three Local Development Plans which will follow – one for the Inner Moray Firth area, one for the Caithness and Sutherland area and one for the West Highland and Islands area. The Forum will be attended by Malcolm MacLeod, Development Plans Manager.

Councillor Bob Wynd, who will be chairing the Forum, said: “The Forum offers an opportunity for local people to hear about and contribute towards the development of the Highland Wide Development Plan. As usual I am looking forward to a lively debate.”

As with all Ward Forums, there will also be an opportunity to discuss any issues of concern that members of the public wish to raise.

[Details given above reproduced from the Highland Council web site]

Quote of the week

"The Highland Council is the biggest single enterprise in the region. As such, it can exert tremendous positive influence through its deployment of resources and the activities of those it employs"

[The Highland Structure Plan Written Statement; Part One: The Strategy; Page 1 Section 1.1.3]

"Costing the Earth"

"Costing the Earth" is a series of radio programmes which looks at:

"'s effect on the environment and how the environment reacts, questioning accepted truths, challenging those in charge and reporting on progress towards improving the world"

The first programme in the current series of nine programmes was broadcast yesterday and was entitled, "Turbines and Tearooms"; it considered the reasons for opposition to 'Green Energy' Developments.

One academic interviewee made the comment:

"Developers need to think about the fact that in the main people don't trust them, they don't trust them at all"

This was just one of many comments made in this fascinating and very easy to listen to programme which spent quite a lot of time considering a proposed development in the village of Northiam. To read the wikipedia entry on this village click here (The related section is 'UK's first green village' - but the villagers have another viewpoint.)

To listen to the programme on i Player click through to the BBC web site here

Wednesday, 2 September 2009

Unpayable debts will hamper recovery

A very thought provoking interview today on a lunchtime consumer programme.

The prospects for our economic future were discussed in terms of:
  • The political consensus to cut back on public spending and the need for programmes of productive spending such as home insulation / flood defences
  • The effect of historical high interest rates and the Banking sector squeezing customers and making profit on reckless lending
  • The problem of un-payable debts owed by individuals and companies with the burden of debt remaining - demonstrated by increased rates of personal and business insolvency
  • Debt ridden bank balance sheet with no sign of improvement despite massive cash injections
To listen in full to the brief interview with Ann Pettifor an economist, and, as a recent Times article called her, "a member of a select club — the seers who saw it all coming..." click here. the interview is approximately 24 minutes through after an item on high street shops.

" of the deepest ever drilled", but will it come at a price?

A BBC report today states that:

"Oil giant BP says it has made a "giant" new oil discovery in its fields in the Gulf of Mexico"

"The company said it drilled the well, dubbed Tiber, to a total depth of about 35,055ft (10,685m), making it one of the deepest wells drilled to date."

"The industry-wide definition for a "giant" discovery is about 250 million barrels of oil "in place", or in other words, the likely total amount, BP spokeswoman Sheila Williams said.

But usually, only as much as 30% of that is extracted from the ground in practice, she said"

BP has had to push further out to sea and drill to ever greater depths in the Gulf of Mexico; the BP share price has risen.

There are now serious concerns that global oil production will 'peak' and then cheap oil will be a thing of the past. We will have an increasing demand for a decreasing supply of a finite resource.

The risks posed by 'peak oil' and the differences in opinion between Government and some members of the business community were discussed in a very interesting article in the FT (on line August 9th). The article states in part,

"...the UK Industry Taskforce on Peak Oil and Energy Security...concluded last year that the economy faces a clear and present energy-security threat. The taskforce, a group that includes Virgin, Scottish and Southern Energy, Arup, Stagecoach and Solarcentury, was set up in 2007 on the basis of our shared opinion that peak oil merited serious study as a business risk. Some began with the assumption that the issue was low-risk but high-consequence. Sadly, we are now of the collective view that peak oil is a high-risk, high-consequence issue."

The article further states:

"The FT’s Gillian Tett has argued that the banking elite cocooned itself in a “social silence” over the true worth of its assets in the run-up to the financial crunch. We worry that the oil industry is wrapped in a social silence on the depletion of its own assets. If we are right, a dire energy crunch awaits us and we need to act now"

To listen to an archived piece on peak oil click here

AN APT contact has contacted us to say that here is no mention of peak oil in the Highland wide Local Development Plan Environmental Statement.

Is this currently the most desirable property in the Highlands?

Found in the 'Up to £100,000' section of the property review of the HSPC (Highland Solicitors Property Centre) published 020909:

One of only 2* properties in the Review to have a 'closing date set'

Detached, generous plot, open outlook over country and a Firth and may be suitable for redevelopment?

[*other property with 'closing date set' is Architect designed and found in £200-£250, 000 section of Review]

Whoa there this is some consultation period!

Or, Everything you've always wanted to know about the Highlands?

Just a small note on the Highland Council web site:

"In a move to promote joined up working, the public consultation on the Main Issues Report will also give people the chance to comment on the draft Coastal Development Strategy, the draft Local Transport Strategy and the initial stage of the Local Housing Strategy. The documents will be available to view at all Highland Council Libraries, Service Points and planning offices. Full information on the Highland wide Local Development Plan consultation can be found on the Highland Council website here or by contacting the Development Plans Team on (01463) 702827 or email "

If you click through on the link above you will find access to:

Highland Wide Local Development Plan
Highland Coastal Development Strategy
Highland Development Plan Scheme & 'Keep us in the picture' competition
Structure Plan
Local Plans
Badenoch & Strathspey Caithness Inverness Nairn Ross and Cromarty East Sutherland Wester Ross West Highland and Islands
Development Plan Policy/Supplementary Planning Guidance
Affordable Housing
Designing for Sustainability in the Highlands
Education and New Residential Developments - consultation
Highland Renewable Energy Strategy & Planning Guidelines
Houses in Multiple Occupation - Draft Supplementary Planning Guidance
Housing in the Countryside
Open Space Supplementary Planning Guidance
Dingwall Riverside Draft Development Brief
Housing Land Audit
A96 Corridor Masterplan
Fort William Wider Waterfront Study
Briefing Notes

For the Housing Need and Demand Assessment HNDA information click here

Where you can find:

Highland Housing Need and Demand Assessment Summary (pdf 150kb)
Highland Housing Need and Demand Assessment Full Report (pdf 1.2mb)
Highland Housing Need and Affordability Model (pdf 215kb)
Highland Need and Demand Assessment - Defining Highland’s Housing Market Areas

'Strictly' viewing numbers predicted to rise

The APTSec household will be switching on to sequins and glitter very shortly as BBC begins the next series of Strictly Come Dancing.

Well we all need a little light relief sometimes, don't we?

It wouldn't surprise me if more viewers than ever tuned in just to gain a little respite from the daily grind, and that is my prediction.

Tuesday, 1 September 2009

Giving the Highlands the X Factor

Well yes, we really need to do something extraordinary. Why? Faced with statistics like this, what would you do?

During the past decade the population of Highland has become older –
particularly those over 75 - despite success in attracting inward migrants and
overall growth. All of the evidence points to a continuation of this process – with
areas such as Sutherland and Wester Ross particularly affected – which has
implications for all aspects of service delivery

...a one-size fits-all approach to policies for service delivery is
unlikely to be successful

The large numbers of migrant workers from the A8 Accession States – currently
believed to form a stable population – occupy mainly private sector rented
accommodation. The demand may have been met by buy-to-rent, but there are
implications for the housing market if the population continues to grow (in a time
of poor mortgage availability) or if a move elsewhere or return home becomes
economically attractive.

Lenders have tightened their landing criteria which presents greatest challenge for
young, 1st time buyers – they typically needed a deposit of 25% in early 2009 (equal
to around £26k) – a year earlier this would have been 12%, around £14k. Income
multipliers have fallen. Some commentators hoped that Scotland would be less
affected as Scottish borrowers typically borrow less relative to their incomes and
mortgage interest payments account for less of their income as house prices were
on average lower than elsewhere in the UK.

Parts of Highland are fragile – in danger of decline – and small housing
developments in these areas can make a real difference.

There are fewer housing choices for people on low incomes in Highland particularly
those living in rural areas. In 2009, social rented housing made up around 18% of
Highland’s housing stock. This is far lower than the Scottish average of around 25%.
The availability of social rented housing varies across Highland. Social rented
housing is most prevalent in East Ross (28%, 2,730 houses); Caithness (28%, 2,930
houses) and Lochaber (22%, 2130 houses). Inverness, Skye & Lochalsh, Nairn and
Sutherland, Badenoch & Strathspey and Mid Ross all have similar proportions in the
range 14% -16% of the housing stock. West Ross has proportionally less – only 10%
(511 houses)28.

The main industry within Highland is the public sector which saw a rise in the
percentage of employees from 25.0% in 1998 to 31.9% in 2007 (an increase of
12,500 jobs, just over half in health and social work and around a third in education).
Other growth areas were banking finance and insurance (+5,400 jobs) distribution
hotels and restaurants (+2,700 jobs) transport and communications (+1,200 jobs)
and construction (+1,000 jobs). The sectors which saw a decline were energy and
water (-1,800 jobs) manufacturing (-600 jobs) and agriculture and fishing (-400 jobs).

Household incomes in Highland are slightly below the Scottish average this is
influenced by dependence on employment sectors which often have low rates of
pay, seasonal employment and a high proportion of part time working.

The Annual Survey of Hours and Earnings shows that in 2008 the median income
for all jobs in Highland (both full and part time) was £18,200; 94% of the Scottish
median (£19,500) and 90% of the UK median (£20,200). The Survey shows that the
gap between Highland and Scotland median incomes has narrowed by three
percentage points over the last decade whereas the mean gap has widened by one
percentage point.

The Scottish Government’s Scottish housing market review found that the Highlands
was consistently amongst the least affordable local authority area when house
prices were compared with earnings and considered it to be an affordability hot spot.

A Scottish Government report36 analysed affordability across Scottish local
authorities. It found that under a range of scenarios using 2006 prices, Highland was
consistently amongst the least affordable authorities. They felt this was “plausibility
(be) driven by purchasers with earning capabilities detached from local labour
markets, pushing up prices and therefore increasing the affordability constraints
facing local residents”.

Across Highland only 29% of younger (under 35) households have enough income
to buy in the market. This rises to 34% when allowance is made for access to wealth
for larger deposits. However, 38% could afford to rent privately – this assumes
availability of lettings at what we estimate to be current asking rents.

As the population ages and births continue to fall, a shift in the age profile of our
population is inevitable with a 50% increase in the number of people of
retirement age by 2021 and slightly higher increase in those aged over 75.

o The current trend of reducing household sizes (a result of divorce rates and
increased life expectancy) will continue. There will be a significant increase in the
number of one person households accompanied by a reduction in the number of
3+ person households.

o This indicates that there is likely to be more demand for smaller sized housing.

o The increase in households headed by one person means that household
incomes will be lower so there may be more affordability issues.


"These findings have been used to help identify the issues that are included in the
Highland wide Local Development Plan (HwLDP) Main Issues Report published in August 2009

Sunday, 30 August 2009

Oh where oh where has the airport gone?

The Main Issues Report for the Highland-wide Local Development Plan is very 'light' on any references to Air Transport or Airports. APTSec finds this odd and will no doubt comment on this in response to the MIR consultation.

Nowhere, in the MIR as far as I can see, is there any reference to the Airport Business Park near Inverness Airport in the A96 Corridor, particularly in relation to the development of the new town proposed near the Hamlet of Tornagrain. Why do I find this odd? Because of the following statements previously made by Council Officers in relation to the A96 Corridor plans which now form a large section of the MIR and potentially a proposed HwLDP:

"Public response with regard to the proposals for Tornagrain had been heavy and critical, with concerns focussing (sic) on whether a settlement for 10,000 people was required; the suitability of the site in view of the probable noise from the airport business park; the effect on Norbord; and the effect on badgers. However, the Head of Development and Strategy pointed out that significant infrastructure investment was required in the centre of the corridor for the airport business park development and Tornagrain would ensure both that the infrastructure was provided and that it was located where local people and businesses wished, rather than this being determined by the Scottish Executive."

"...if the Tornagrain element of the Strategy were delayed or suspended, this would weaken the package and jeopardise the provision of infrastructure, particularly for the airport business park"

[From the Minutes of Meeting of the Planning, Development, Europe and Tourism Committee held in the Council Chamber, Council Headquarters, Glenurquhart Road, Inverness on Wednesday, 14 March 2007, at 10.30 a.m. agenda item 7. This was the meeting that agreed that that, "the revised Masterplan be fed into preparation of the strategic Highland Local Development Plan" ] [Note: it is unlikely that the Scottish Executive would have determined where things were located - it would have been a local decision as will become clear in later posts]

From the appendix to the Report related to agenda item 7:

When the public comment stated that, the "Economic base for additional 30,000 population is not clear", the Planning Department responded;

"On a more immediate level, there is real commitment to progress the delivery of a new campus for Inverness College and UHI which will be a cornerstone of economic development in the area. Similarly, the opportunities offered by the expansion of Inverness airport as set out in their recent Masterplan, along with the delivery of the Inverness Airport Business Park will be critical for the delivery of the strategy."

In the same Report, when the public comment was summarised as, "Opposition to the new town at Tornagrain on the basis that the requirement for a new town has not been established and its overall impact on the area." the Planning Department response was:

"The strategy as it currently stands supports the principle of development within four main development areas – Inverness East, Whiteness Head, Nairn South and Tornagrain. Along with limited expansion of the main villages in the corridor, these places all provide a range of choice and diversity to the housing to be delivered. It is considered that Tornagrain remains a key element given the central location, and links to the expanding airport and business park."

In the same report, when the public comment was, "No employment for the people living there" the Planning Department response was:

"The opportunities offered by the expansion of Inverness airport as set out in their recent Masterplan, along with the delivery of the Inverness Airport Business Park will be critical for the delivery of the strategy. The linkages in the Tornagrain area to the economic development around the airport are obvious and have been built into the initial masterplanning work undertaken by Moray Estates. There will of course be employment across the Corridor, and by ensuring that adequate transport infrastructure in place, The Council is seeking to ensure that the linkages, both east and west are enabled as effectively as possible."

Why is something so critical to the economic strategy and the provision of jobs seemingly not even worthy of a passing reference?

The College Campus; an example of 'joint working'?

The Inverness Courier reported on Friday 280809 that:

"A DECISION on the future location of a new flagship campus for Inverness College has again been postponed"

The report continued:

"...the college board had been expected to decide by the end of this month whether to redevelop its existing Longman Road site or to move to a new greenfield location at Beechwood on the city's eastern outskirts.

However, in order to take time to further consider the merits of both sites, the board is now expected to make a decision next month.

The £60 million project — which has yet to be approved by the Scottish Education Funding Council — is an integral part of the development of the University of the Highlands and Islands (UHI). But the choices of location have prompted an intense battle."

The full article can be found here

However the Agenda for the forthcoming Meeting of The Highland Council on Thursday, 3 September 2009 contains the following item (12) on the Inverness College Campus Options:

"There is circulated Report No. HC-23-09 dated 25 August 2009 by the Director of Planning and Development which provides an update on the progress being made on the development of a new campus site at Beechwood on the east of Inverness which will offer the opportunity for the relocation of Inverness College from the current Longman site and a number of other related activities, including the Scottish Agricultural College, additional student residences, the future development of the Centre for Health Science and sports facilities.

Members are invited to:-

a) support the efforts underway to deliver a high quality campus site at Beechwood, Inverness, and

b) agree to continued dialogue with all the partners involved in the scheme to ensure that the site can be delivered in the timescales required."

The report related to agenda item 12 seeks the endorsement of support by the Council towards the establishment of the new campus at Beechwood, "given the wider economic benefits for the Highlands as a whole" and states:

"It is important that the Council endorses the commitment to the delivery of the new campus in Inverness. Whilst any proposal to redevelop the Longman site in Inverness could be supported in planning terms, Members may wish to endorse the benefits that the Beechwood site offers in providing long-term capacity and fit with the longer-term development strategy for the city."

"A preferred site for the development of the campus has been identified at
Beechwood Farm located to the east of the A9. This site is currently part of the
green wedge as shown within the adopted Inverness Local Plan but is identified as
a campus site within the A96 Corridor Framework, which has been approved as
supplementary planning guidance by the Council in September 2007. The site
which covers some 219 acres (88 hectares) is shown on the attached map."

"As set out above the relocation of Inverness College will be an important element
of the Beechwood Campus project. The College Board is currently discussing the
options available to them and carrying out their own risk assessment of the two
main options – the redevelopment of the Longman Road site and the Beechwood
Campus. The Board is expected to make their decision shortly with the intention of
progressing the preferred option through the funding process required for the
scheme. Senior Members and officials of the Council have been actively involved
in discussions with the College on both of the options currently before the Board."

"In planning terms the redevelopment of the Longman site could be supported by
current Council policy, although it is suggested that this would not offer the wider
benefits that a co-located college on the Beachwood campus could offer. The
current college site is rather limited in area, and remains better suited in the
medium to longer term to other uses, including retail, business and industrial uses.
In addition future expansion of the Longman site would involve negotiation with
different land interests. By contrast, the Beechwood site is wholly owned by HIE
and of sufficient size to accommodate considerable expansion over future
decades. The site also provides potential for a range of supporting activities which
will enhance the attractiveness of further and higher education in the city and the
Highlands. These include student accommodation and sports facilities which
would be problematic on the Longman site."

"Discussions are continuing with the College Board on the options appraisal that
they are considering. The Council has requested that the affordability section of the
options appraisal and a timetable for the final decisions be provided. Whilst no
decision has been reached the key risks of the Beechwood Campus, including the
delivery of access to the site and the phasing and location of the individual
development “parcels” are capable of being managed effectively through joint
working between the various agencies involved."

Is the College Board in effect being presented with no option other than to accept the construction of a campus at Beechwood? With so much pressure from The Highland Council and HIE how could they refuse?

All change with development plans

Highland Council has a duty (under the new Planning Act) to provide up-to-date Local Development Plans; an early stage in the preparation of any new Development Plan is the preparation of and consultation on a Main Issues Report or MIR. The purpose of an 'MIR' is to facilitate and inform the preparation of a Development Plan.

Policy tells us:

"An 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 report must be sufficiently clear and precise to enable people to understand what is proposed and to make meaningful comments. It must also contain one or more reasonable alternative sets of proposals. Finally, the report must draw attention to the ways in which the favoured and alternative proposals differ from the spatial strategy of the existing adopted LDP (if any). There is no legal requirement to draw such a comparison with existing local plans, but it would be good practice to do this within the first generation of main issues reports."

Highland Council's has many existing adopted local plans. APTSec thinks it would be good practice for, not just our Local Planning Authority, but for us all to compare how these existing plans differ with what is being put forward in the MIR for the Highland-wide Plan.

The MIR for the Highland-wide Local Development Plan (HwLDP) is now available for comment.
The HwLDP MIR can be found here

Section 1 of the MIR for the HwLDP tells us in part:

"The purpose of the Highland wide Local Development Plan is to put in place what the policies will be for decisions made on planning applications across the Highland Council area."

"This Plan will draw together and replace many of the planning policies contained within the existing Local Plans, particularly those that relate to the general approach to development."

"It will also act as a replacement to the policies in the Highland Structure Plan, which we are no longer required to prepare."

The existing Highland Structure Plan was approved by Scottish Ministers and became operative on 26th March 2001. The new Planning Act makes no provision for a replacement Structure Plan but as stated above (in what I have called point 3 above) the Highland-wide LOCAL Development Plan will provide a vehicle for the policies that would have been covered by a Structure Plan in Highland.

It would therefore be good practice to look at the existing Highland Structure Plan.

To find out how Highland Council sets out the purpose of the MIR for the HwLDP, including how the HwLDP, "...will set out some of the main growth areas for the Highlands, and put in place guidance on how these specific areas should be developed over the next ten to twenty years." why not use the link to the MIR above now and read section 1.