Saturday, 19 September 2009

Shining a light on land use along the A96 Corridor?

The announcement - 31 May 2005 - via a Highland Council press release that:

"A new community, serving a population of 10,000-plus, should be created on the A 96 InvernessNairn road at Dalcross South - between Tornagrain and Drumine Farm, near Gollanfield - to meet the long term needs of the growing Inverness city region.

This is the main recommendation of the first phase of the A 96 Corridor Masterplan, which will be considered on Monday 6 June by members of The Highland Council’s City of Inverness and Area Committee and the Nairnshire Area Committee at a joint briefing in the Town House, Inverness, by consultants FG Burnett and Council planning officials.

Came as a surprise to many people.

This 'new community' is proposed for a rural area on land owned by 'Moray Estates' , it is understood that the development should be 'Mixed Use'.

Mixed-use development
generally means allowing more than one type of use in a building or set of buildings; some combination of residential, commercial, industrial, office, institutional, or other land uses. The concept of mixed-use property developments plays an important part in bringing people back into cities, especially the centres, or otherwise neglected or under utilised areas.

"Barriers to Delivering Mixed Use Development; Final Report" is an extremely interested and relevant read. (The report, of course, comes with the disclaimer, "The views expressed in this report are those of the researcher and do not necessarily represent those of the Department or Scottish Ministers.")


"1.1 The Scottish Government Directorate for the Built Environment has taken forward this research as part of its role to oversee the planning system in Scotland and ensure that new development contributes to high quality places. The aim is not to remake the case for more mixed use development. There is already a general acceptance that mixing uses both at the scales of the neighbourhood and individual building can be valuable. They can help to produce more vibrant, adaptable and pleasant environments and to achieve sustainable places that minimise travel and support local demand for goods /services in a walkable catchment. Nevertheless, there is a general perception that the vast majority of local plan allocations and planning applications are for single use. Hence, there is a need to explore whether this perception is correct; identify why and where mixed use development has and has not occurred and to highlight barriers and the enabling factors."

"Policy Foundation 3.2 The Scottish Government has a single overarching Purpose and sees “sustainable economic growth” as critical to building a dynamic and growing economy that will provide prosperity and opportunities, whilst ensuring that future generations can enjoy a better quality of life. One of the Scottish Government’s National Outcomes in support of this Purpose is the intention that ‘we live in well-designed sustainable places where we are able to access the amenities and services we need’. Consequently, Government policies on the built environment increasingly stress the importance of good design."

"Long Term vision

6.5 Dealing with a fragmented ownership can be an issue from the very start of the mixed use development process. Land assembly and ownership is fundamental as a basis for large scale master planning and can be a significant barrier to development of any kind. Control of land through ownership can have a greater influence than planning control. In this context, the vision of a single landowner or structured promoter/development partnership or company can be instrumental in delivering a mixed use development. In the workshops, it was pointed out that it is also likely that less capital investment will be required if the land is already owned and, with a reduced borrowing requirement, there is also likely to be less pressure from banks and investors who may perceive mixed use development as inherently more risky. One example of this that was highlighted at the workshops was the development proposed at Tornagrain near Inverness."

[Moray Estates appears under the 'Acknowledgments: Individuals who contributed to the research' section of the report. The report covers some 109 pages and the web publication date is given on the Scottish Government web site as September 04 2009.]

You will have noted from a recent post that the Major Landowners in the Corridor are Moray and Cawdor Estates.

Other developers with land interests in the area, that South of Nairn for example, have stated publicly that they are, moving away from being housebuilders to being town builders.

History of the A96 Corridor Plans; did you know?

There may be some people who are wondering how all the plans for the expansion of Inverness arose. You may be interested in this report from 2004:




Report by Director of Planning and Development; published on 20 January 2004

"This report seeks authority to commission consultants to prepare a Master Plan for the long term development of the strategic A96 Corridor between Inverness and Nairn as identified in the Council’s Structure and Local Plans."

"The review of the Inverness Local Plan (pp.18-20) and more recent City-Vision acknowledge the strategic importance and suitability of the A96 Corridor between Inverness and Nairn as the optimum location for longer term development post-2011. The creation of a chain of new settlements capable of accommodating up to 30,000 people is envisaged. The planning of these communities will require to be closely integrated with substantial transport investment required to upgrade the trunk A96 road and Aberdeen rail links together with intersecting local distributor/bus routes. Opportunities exist for new public transport interchange facilities serving these settlements and linking their residents to employment and higher-order services
situated along the corridor within Nairn and Inverness city centre. Comparable enabling actions are required to build and strengthen the key utility networks."

"The bulk of land making up the Corridor is owned by two estates – Moray and Cawdor. Long term land management objectives need to be aligned with the emerging development opportunities. This is very productive ground and high amenity countryside. As the draft Local Plan indicates, within a matrix of active agricultural units, forests and habitats, landowner and agency initiatives are needed to construct a ‘green’ framework for future development. Retained farms, woodland and new structural forest areas should coincide with wildlife conservation corridors, sustainable drainage networks, recreational zones and connecting cycle/bridle/footpaths. Long distance routes should demarcate the outer edges of the A96 Corridor, following in turn close by the Firth and also along the ‘high forest’ path network between Culloden-Kildrummie."

"The draft Local Plan prioritises the development of established housing and community land allocations situated within existing settlements, predominantly serviced ground located on the immediate outskirts of Inverness and Nairn. These areas have sufficient capacity to meet the bulk of expected needs until 2011. The Council has applied a corresponding policy within the A96 Corridor (pp.53-54) which sets a strict presumption against piecemeal and premature development during that period. The sole exception to this safeguarding policy is the strategic business and freight park which is being developed by a public-private consortium in conjunction with upgrading of Inverness airport as a 24 hour transport hub and construction of a new dedicated access road (expected to commence shortly)."

"The scale of development opportunities proposed for the Corridor, the wide range of interests to be consulted and accommodated and the long lead times necessary to secure development agreements and associated funding require the early preparation of a comprehensive planning framework for the Corridor as a whole."

"The Committee is aware of the extremely heavy work commitments already bearing on staff within the Planning & Development Service. The preparation of an overall masterplan for the A96 Corridor is a reasonably distinct and freestanding piece of work which should also make a prestigious commission for specialist consultants working under appropriate supervision."

5.1 The Committee is asked to authorise the selection of consultants to prepare an A96
Corridor Master Plan at an estimated cost of £30,000."

Some of the 'opportunities' mentioned in the above paragraphs had missed the boat for the Inverness Local Plan which was at the, "Draft Deposit with Modifications' stage in April 2003 so this 'master plan' for the A96 Corridor was carried forward as non-statutory guidance.

Scottish Awards for Quality in Planning

There are 26 entries for the 2009 Scottish Awards for Quality in Planning.

The Highland Council has entered the competition with:

"Development Plans: Highland Council Open Space in New Residential Development"

More details here

Money, Money...

All plans for our area have to be considered in the context of the availability of cash to complete the necessary infrastructure projects to make any proposals for our area viable and sustainable.

Should you wish you can check out the press release for the Draft Scottish Budget 2010-2011 here and the Finance Officer, John Swinney's speech here

In the above mentioned speech Mr Swinney makes the statement:

"...a range of forecasters predicting significant real terms cuts to the Scottish budget, of up to 8.5 per cent between this year and the end of 2013-14*."

These forecasters are from The Centre for Public Policy for Regions (CPPR), which is a major research initiative being jointly pursued by the Universities of Glasgow and Strathclyde. Its web site states that it, "looks at the role of public policy in promoting economic and social development in Scotland and beyond"

One particular section of the report referred to in John Swinney's speech caught my eye:

"The potential budget decline outlined above would be difficult to accommodate in any circumstances but it is even more difficult to accommodate given the continuing expenditure pressures arising from: a very high priority for Health and Education budgets; an overall budget that consists of around 50% of wages; continuation of the council tax freeze; an ambitious transport infrastructure building programme, especially in relation to the Forth Road Bridge replacement; and many other commitments to projects like the 2014 Commonwealth Games and increased investment in public sector housing."

So, are these accurate forecasts or is there plenty of money to spend on everything we need?

Consultation overload!

The first phase of a major review of Community Council arrangements in Highland, focusing on boundaries, gets under way on Monday 21 September. Stage one of the consultation process will invite suggestions on the area and composition of Community Councils. This will last until 23 December. The proposed areas for Community Councils will be included in a report which will be presented to the Highland Council in February 2010.

Many Community Council boundaries were set more than 30 years ago. Community Council (and members of the public who wish to participate in this process) are invited to consider whether these boundaries are still meaningful as they stand, or whether changes in such things as population and settlement patterns should be reflected in altered boundaries. There may also be an opportunity to realign Community Council boundaries with other divisions, such as Polling Districts.

Highland Council members, at their local Ward Business Meetings, will have an opportunity to comment separately, and they will also be sounded out on any other comments which are received.

The second 12-week period of public consultation will follow in April 2010, after the Council has produced a new Highland-wide draft scheme. This will include discussion at Ward Forums.

A third period of consultation will follow in October, next year, when the public is invited to comment on amendments to the draft scheme.

Convener Councillor Sandy Park said: “This is a significant review of current Community Councils. Community Councils can be assured that they will be consulted all along the way to ensure we produce a streamlined and effective set of new arrangements.”

The Council currently provides 150 Community Councils in Highland with annual funding of £208,951.

Maps of the current boundaries of Community Councils are available here (PDF). They are also available for inspection in Council libraries and Service Points.

Emails should be sent to Written submissions should be sent to CC Review, Highland Council, Glenurquhart Road, Inverness IV3 5NX.

[Text can be found on the Highland council web site]

Friday, 18 September 2009

Teasing out news on Nairn Bypass

From the STPR:

PROJECT 22 – Targeted Road Congestion / Environmental Relief schemes


To reduce conflicts between strategic and local traffic to improve road safety, improve
journey times and reliability, reduce emissions and reduce the impact of traffic on local

The project targets specific locations on the road network where improvements could
help resolve conflicts between strategic and local traffic. For this region, this includes
enhancements to the A96 such as a bypass at Nairn and a new Inveramsay Bridge. For details
of other initiatives in this project, see page 10.

As they say, "Such as a bypass at Nairn"

More to follow...

"£500m less to spend" What future the Dalcross rail halt now?

And so it begins; the 'credit crunch' fallout?

Well, whatever you wish to call it the headlines on this morning's news and on the BBC news on line were not encouraging:

"Ministers scrap airport rail plan

"The Scottish Government has scrapped the £120m Glasgow Airport Rail Link, amid public spending cut concerns."

"Mr Swinney told the Scottish Parliament the rail link had to go to cope with a £129m cut in the NHS budget, as a result of UK government reductions in heath department capital spending."

Well, as the news item says:

"The Glasgow Airport Rail Link, which was due to open in time for the 2014 Commonwealth Games, was overwhelmingly backed by MSPs as a "nationally significant project"."

Now, some people believe that airports can take money out of economys, and passenger numbers at Glasgow were reported to have dropped earlier this year, but, in 2008, more than 8.1 million people travelled from Glasgow, making it the eighth busiest airport in the UK.

According to the Inverness Airport information site 558,000 passengers travel through the terminal each year. As APTSec has posted before:

PROJECT 19 – Rail Improvements Between Aberdeen and Inverness


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

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*.

APTSec for one would like some clarity:

Do we think airports are a good thing or not in terms of benefits to the economy? (What of the environmental costs and peak oil?)

What are the realisitic chances of obtaining finances to support the building of a rail halt at Inverness Airport Dalcross? (Given that when 'tough choices' had to be made the Government chose not to build a rail link between a major Scottish City and its major airport.)

Finding the facts behind the Transport Issues

1. Introduction

The remit for the Strategic Transport Projects Review (STPR) is to assess the existing and future performance of the transport network, identify gaps and shortfalls, identify and appraise potential interventions and produce a prioritised programme of such interventions that will make a significant contribution to three key strategic outcomes, namely:

  • Improve journey times and connections;
  • Reduce emissions; and
  • Improve quality, accessibility and affordability.

To assist the analysis process, different elements of the network have been identified - four urban networks (Aberdeen, Dundee, Edinburgh and Glasgow), two strategic nodes (Inverness and Perth) and 20 land based corridors of national importance.

In defining the appropriate level of detail to assess the urban networks and strategic nodes, the role of the STPR in the urban networks and strategic nodes has been identified as connecting the strategic corridors, providing access to international gateways or access to areas of economic activity of national significance and access to regeneration areas.

2. Purpose

The purpose of this paper is to identify areas of economic activity which are of national significance in order to provide a framework to assess the performance of transport within these urban areas and strategic nodes.

3. Selection Approach

The following approach was used to select areas of economic activity of national significance:
An initial review of each of the four urban networks and two strategic nodes was undertaken.Specific sub regions were identified as potentially containing areas of nationally important economic activity. These areas were selected by drawing upon the knowledge and experience gathered by the study team during previous work in each city region and the review of the local and strategic planning documents carried out during SWP3. Areas were selected on the basis of their existing status as employment centres as well as their status as areas in which strategic employment developments are planned in future.

In selecting these areas, the analysis recognised the importance of city centre locations in each of the urban networks and strategic nodes. A broad geographical definition of ‘city centre’ was adopted at the core of each city.

Beyond the city centre, a number of key areas of economic activity were identified and included for consideration. These areas concentrated on key existing industrial sites and areas with high profile new or planned developments.

Each of these areas was then assessed against a number of criteria to determine whether they
could be considered of national and strategic importance as centres of economic activity.

4 Definition Criteria

Throughout the selection approach the analysis adopted a definition of ‘nationally significant areas of economic activity’ which is consistent with key objectives for the Scottish economy as set out in policy documents such as The Framework for Economic Development in Scotland and Smart Successful Scotland. In particular, the selection approach paid specific attention to the Growing Businesses strand of the Smart Successful Scotland vision which aims “to enable existing businesses to grow to a scale where they can compete effectively on a world stage” and to “achieve global success in key sectors

Towards this, the analysis defines an area of nationally significant economic activity in Scotland as one which exhibits two key characteristics:

  • A concentration of employment in key strategic sectors of the economy; and,
  • A concentration of large companies operating on a global scale and employing significant numbers of staff on site.
Key strategic industries have been defined in line with the 6 national priority sectors
identified in the Scottish Enterprise Operating Plan for 2007-2010, specifically – electronic markets, energy, financial services, food and drink, life sciences and tourism.

Looking at Inverness only


Key concentrations of economic activity within Inverness are shown on Figure 5 and include the following:

City Centre (defined as covering the area from the River Ness, through the city centre to include key sites such as Longman Industrial Estate, Raigmore and Beechwood Business Park)

  • Records an employment density of 5 strategic jobs per hectare, considerably higher than the
  • Key sectors include – financial and business services, life sciences, tourism
  • Strategically important employers include – Centre for Health Sciences, Johnson and Johnson.
Other areas within Inverness which were considered but did not meet the criteria used in this
assessment included Inverness Airport. At present the site does not meet the selection criteria in terms of employment density. Although it is recognised that there are significant plans for
development on the site, little evidence has been found as to the nature of employment likely to be generated and the fit, therefore, with the strategic industries being assessed here.

Note the comments made above with regard to the future plans for Inverness Airport; the plans for the airport upon which so much depends in terms of providing jobs for the residents of the new communities in A96 Corridor, Particularly ' a new, 'Sustainable' town near the hamlet of Tornagrain'.

This extract was taken from one of the many documents published as part of the Strategic Transport Projects Review, STPR.

[Transport Scotland
Strategic Transport Projects Review
Report 1 – Review of Current and Future Network Performance
Appendix A – Areas of Economic Activity Technical Note; Technical Note No. 19 (1 October 2007)]

Please do not hesitate to seek further information.

Thursday, 17 September 2009

Empty homes and 'Brickonomics'

Is there a way of reducing homelessness; creating jobs in the construction industry and maintaining the skills the construction industry needs?

Why not pop along to 'Brickonomics' to find out.

The consequences of cost cutting?

The guardian reported yesterday:

"A London council that launched a cost-cutting drive inspired by no-frills airlines has been served with an injunction to stop it ending live-in wardens for older people in sheltered housing."

One member of the public is quoted as saying:

"People have got off their backsides and are getting involved in this issue," said David Young, 78, chairman of the UK Pensioners' Strategy Committee, which got the injunction so they can keep their wardens instead of the offered alternative of "floating" wardens to cover several sites from next year. Young said: "This affects 500,000 old people across the country."

One of the challenges facing Highland Council along, of course, with other Local Authorities in Scotland is how to provide quality living for a population which will contain a significantly greater proportion of over 65s and over 85s. As they say, we are not getting any younger and the next Highland-wide proposed plan is said to cover 20 years, but in reality you are talking 35 years - given the timescales quoted on already submitted planning applications; the build rates and and the fact that no timescales are given or funds allocated for road and rail provision.

I have a feeling that many more people will be taking Mr Young's words to heart and getting "off
their backsides", however, I also have a feeling that many, if they are not very careful, will be simply closing the stable door well after the horse has bolted.

Wednesday, 16 September 2009

Parliament promotes meeting at Alness Academy

From the Scottish Parliament web site

A record number of people are expected at Alness Academy when the Public Petitions Committee meets there on Monday 21 September.

<span class=Alness Academy" class="pageSectionImageRight" align="right" height="120" width="250">More than 100 primary and secondary school children from Alness, Dingwall, Invergordon and Dornoch are expected to attend the meeting alongside members of the public.

As well as considering petitions on safety measures on the A96, out-of-hours GP cover and free public transport for young people, the committee will hear from Alness Academy fifth-year pupils Andrew Page and Andrew Dannet, who have lodged their own petitions on payments for blood donations and equity in funding of school trips.

Committee Convener Frank McAveety said: “This is the first time a committee of the Parliament has met in Alness and it looks as if we will break all records for public attendance, which is great news.

"We hope everyone from members of the public, community groups and school children come along to watch a committee of their Parliament at work and take part in a question-and-answer session with committee MSPs about petitions, what the Parliament does and how to engage with it.”

Commenting on the Public Petitions Committee meeting, fourth-year pupil Miranda Strachan said: “It is good to know that our voices can be heard and taken seriously by the Parliament at our own school.”

How are you getting on?

Having spent most of the day trying to compose part of a response to the Main Issues Report - MIR - APTSec does not mind confiding that I am finding it pretty tough going.

It is not easy to motivate myself and I wondered just how others are coping.

People all over Scotland are now being faced with the challenge of commenting on the Main Issues reports that have / are being prepared by Local Authorities across the country.

It is hard not to feel that you are, 'beaten before you start', that whatever you say it will be used somehow to justify plans which have been predetermined by other routes prior to the publication of the MIR.

But try we must and hope that we have not been wasting our time and the local authority's time and money just so that the Planning Authority can have been seen to have been 'consulting' the locals.

Monday, 14 September 2009

Council house building in Highland

Highland Council's Housing and Social Work Committee will be asked at their meeting on Wednesday 16 September 2009 (10.30am):

"to agree to the submission of a bid for funding of £1.275m to support the construction of 51 houses. As part of the bid, the Committee is also asked to approve the use of £1.020m from the Council’s landbank fund and £1.000m from the HRA as the Council’s contribution as well as additional prudential borrowing of £2.570m."

To read the report that,

"...provides details of the second round of Scottish Government funding to support new council house building and invites Members to consider whether to submit a bid under the initiative."

click HSW-109-09 which is agenda item 14.

Other items on the Agenda for the committee to note include:

The Scottish Housing Quality Standard, which sets a minimum standard for all social rented housing, Delivery Plan.

Report No HSW-103-09 which contains statistical information on housing need points awarded and allocations outcomes to applicants with different categories of housing need. The report also summarises areas for policy change.