Saturday, 3 October 2009


Following on from the previous post on transport concerns, let's look at some related extracts from the Strategic Transport Projects Review SEA* which concern the A96:

"D16 - Upgrade A96 to Dual Carriageway between Inverness and Nairn

"The intervention would provide a new dual carriageway on the A96 corridor between Nairn and Inverness and a new link road connecting the A96 and the A9 south of Inverness. This intervention would address the STPR objectives, “to improve connectivity, journey time and opportunities to travel, and to reduce accident rate and severity.” The dualling of the A96 between Inverness and Nairn has been assessed as having an overall moderate adverse effect on the environment (Chapter 6)"

The report looked at an 'SEA alternative' and a 'do minimum scenario' . The do minimum case was judged not to meet the objectives as set out, but the comparison of D16 with the an SEA alternative provides a much more interesting read. The alternative to upgrading had three strands; the introduction of rail Park & Ride facilities at Inverness and Nairn; improvements to the rail infrastructure between Aberdeen and Inverness (considered in Package D17 of Appendix D in STPR Report 3: Rail Enhancements between Aberdeen and Inverness) and implementation of speed enforcement measures on the A96 between Inverness and Nairn to reduce accident rates. And the conclusion:

"After consultation with the STPR Team, it was considered that the proposed alternative would contribute to the STPR objective of “Improved Connectivity, Journey Time and Opportunity to Travel by Public Transport”; the alternative was not regarded as fully addressing the safety related objectives on the A96 east of Inverness. The alternative Park- &-Choose element could contribute to the objective but it was considered that the proposed Park-&-Choose as part of a new Dalcross Station (considered in part of D11 of Appendix D in STPR Report 3) would address the objective more fully. The speed enforcement measures are not expected to fully address the STPR safety objective. It was therefore considered that the A96 Upgrade (D16 of Appendix D in STPR Report 3), Rail Service Enhancements between Aberdeen and Inverness (D17 of Appendix D in STPR Report 3) and also Intervention Targeted Road Congestion / Environmental Relief schemes (D24 of Appendix D in STPR Report 3) would better contribute to all of the STPR objectives. Intervention D16 (A96 Upgrade) and part of the suggested alternative (considered in D17) were both been accepted. The SEA alternative as a whole was not accepted as an alternative to the upgrading of the A96."

The decision to support the upgrade of the A96 between Inverness and Nairn was based on whether or not it fulfilled the STPR objectives, and the 'alternative' rejected because it did not fully address the safety objectives.

Let us not forget however that major road construction will have an impact on the environment and the report also states:

"The upgrade of the A96 was predicted to have further minor to major adverse effects on noise sensitive receptors, material assets and cultural heritage."

"In terms of cultural heritage, the A96 upgrade has the potential to affect a number of Scheduled Monuments and ‘A’ listed buildings that are situated within close proximity to the A96."

"Minor Residual Effects after Mitigation
(of environmental effects)

Biodiversity: Disturbance of species and potential loss of nationally important habitat.

Cultural heritage: Short term temporary disturbance from construction and long term effects from land take and change in setting."

[SEA* - Strategic Environmental Assessment]

As promised more posts on the STPR and the Nairn Bypass situation to follow.

Friday, 2 October 2009

To upgrade the A96 or not upgrade that is the question

Is it really almost 5 years since 39 members of the public, and 12 'informed individuals' expressed these views:

(Extract from consultant's summary of focus groups held in November 2004 seeking views on possible expansion in A96 Corridor)

"The A96 itself was clearly a major cause of concern and frustration for focus group and conference participants, and proposals to upgrade the A96 to dual carriageway between Inverness and Nairn were met with universal approval. Most felt that upgrading was long overdue and would be required irrespective of any new development."

"Indeed it is no exaggeration to say that everyone had the view that any more development on a significant scale in the corridor would be unacceptable until this issue is addressed. The A96 is regarded as ‘a disaster waiting to happen’ (reference to concerns regarding road safety) although it is recognised that some of the problems arise from irresponsible behaviour and frustration on the part of drivers (e.g. dangerous overtaking, being stuck behind farm vehicles etc)."

"Whilst the dualling of the A96 and the provision of by passes at either end of the corridor seem to be the major local transport issues there was a more general concern that the road network as a whole could not support the increase in traffic and that local roads would need to be improved to handle the additional traffic volume generated by the proposed growth."

[Final Report A96 Corridor Master Plan Community Consultation, the findings of which were summarised in 'Dalcross Smart Growth Master Plan ' including the inclusion of the latter two paragraphs above ]

So what is the situation now?

"Support for developer protocol within the A96 Corridor development framework was
given although no delivery schedule or funding commitment for transport infrastructure has been set. This would require analytical work as well as considering legislative and procurement issues. TS welcomed input from developer interests regarding transport infrastructure requirements and constraints to development sites."

"It was stated that the principle relating to infrastructure must surely be prioritised. Clarification as to whether the principle related to Corridor wide infrastructure or local requirements was sought. A view was expressed that, as the starting point, the A9/A96 link is required before anything else can happen as established through Faber Maunsell modelling.

A contrary view was expressed that the modelling was flawed and that a review of it was welcomed.

It was suggested that the individual applications sitting with THC have accompanying transport assessments which prove they work without the need for the A9/A96 link. These developments, it was argued, could go ahead but may not create the places desired by THC in the Corridor.

It was noted that Transport Scotland had taken a view on the A96 as an urban centre to urban centre route. The A96 should in fact be designed as a local distributor route that allows access to various communities across the Corridor. The road, it was suggested is not needed to allow early phases to commence."

[A96 Growth Corridor Delivery Forum of 23 06 2009 Summary Report]

As APTSec has noted in previous posts, the option that emerged from the A96 Masterplan was 'the Transport Option' just how can they even consider going ahead without the upgrades.

Thursday, 1 October 2009

Industry Omens look bleak

From the Architecture Scotland news update.


With a drop in expenditure on social housing from £524.9m to £351.9m by the Scottish Government on the cards in a draft budget for 2010-11 the public sector looks set to experience the sort of painful contraction that private sector operators have already endure.

The precipitous plunge has been blamed on expenditure being brought forward to 2009, mitigating construction pain from the financial crisis but leaving a hole in budgets going forward and with scant evidence of any upturn thus far industry omens look bleak.

To read the full item click here

ASDA to submit new application for Inverness Store

Also in Planning Daily.


ASDA is to push ahead with plans for a store in Slackbuie, Inverness despite a legal challenge by a local developers' consortium.

The supermarket chain says it is submitting a new detailed application to The Highland Council in response to Inverness Estates’ appeal against the Scottish Government’s decision to approve its initial application.

The legal challenge could delay the project – which is already in its fourth year - by at least another year.

To read full item click here

Latest news on Trump CPO Motion

News just in on the Planning newsletter.


Aberdeenshire councillors have rejected a call to block the use of compulsory purchase orders (CPO) for US tycoon Donald Trump to buy extra land for his £1b luxury golf development.

Members at a full council meeting decided it was inappropriate to reject the use of CPOs completely without a detailed report.

They were considering a motion to rule out the use of CPOs tabled by long-standing opponent of the Trump scheme councillor Martin Ford.

To read the full article click here

Wednesday, 30 September 2009

Changes to Policy; Climate Change and Flood Risk

Important News just in from the Planning Directorate:

The draft consolidated Scottish Planning Policy (SPP), which brought together the existing SPP and NPPG series into a single shorter document, was published for consultation in April this year. The consultation ended in June. Since the publication of the draft consolidated SPP two important pieces of legislation have been passed by the Scottish Parliament which have implications for planning policy. These are the Climate Change (Scotland) Act 2009 and the Flood Risk Management (Scotland) Act 2009.

We are proposing some changes to policy as a result of these Acts and are consulting on the proposed policy changes from today (30 September 2009) until 12 November 2009. As a result of the consultation on the draft consolidated SPP, changes are also being proposed to the sustainable development and coastal planning sections and to the policy on high amenity business locations. Updated policy on onshore oil and gas operations is also included in this consultation, which will replace Circular 12/1986.

These proposed policy changes have been assessed for their likely environmental effects under the Environmental Assessment (Scotland) Act 2005. The results of this strategic environmental assessment are set out in an annex to the environmental report, which is being published today alongside the statement of proposed policy changes.

Links to the statement of proposed policy changes and to the environmental report annex are provided below. The consultation on the proposed changes ends on 12 November 2009. Consultation responses should be sent to or to the Directorate for the Built Environment, 2-J, Victoria Quay, Edinburgh, EH6 6QQ.

Proposed policy changes -
Environmental Report Annex -

It really is well worth taking at look at these proposed policy changes which propose in part:

Climate Change:

The following additions to the SPP are proposed:

  • The need to help mitigate the causes of climate change and the need to adapt to its short and long term impacts should be taken into account in all decisions throughout the planning system.
  • Development plans should promote a pattern of development which reduces the need to travel and encourages active travel and travel by public transport. Development plans should also require the siting, design and layout of all new development to contribute to limiting greenhouse gas emissions, particularly by limiting resource and energy requirements.
  • All development plan policies should take the need for climate change mitigation and adaptation into account.
  • Development should be avoided in areas with likely increased vulnerability to the effects of climate change, particularly areas at significant risk from flooding, landslip and coastal erosion.
  • All new development should be designed to mitigate the causes of climate change by minimising carbon and other greenhouse gas emissions and include features that provide effective adaptation to the predicted effects of climate change.
  • When designating land for new residential, commercial and industrial development, planning authorities should consider the energy and heat requirements of these new developments. New development should be planned to make best use of opportunities for decentralised and renewable or low carbon heat and power wherever possible.

Tuesday, 29 September 2009


Sustainability Of Land Use and Transport in Outer NeighbourhoodS

The Solutions project, conducted in five universities and funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council, found virtually no relationship between urban form and travel. Raising urban densities doesn't push people out of their unsustainable cars and into sustainable public transport, it revealed, because land use options matter far less than long-term socio-economic trends, which increase the likelihood of people wanting more spacious homes and more travel

The overall conclusion of the study is that the relatively small differences between the 3 alternative policy options studied (Compact City, Market-led Dispersal, Planned Expansion) are overwhelmed by the impacts of socio-economic trends.

A little light reading for those extolling the virtues of planned settlements in our area I think.

Monday, 28 September 2009

Some more views just in

Another view on the MIR sent in by an APT member in Nairn

"The draft fails to identify, or offer answers to, many of the fundamental questions which need to be considered in drawing up a plan for the development of the Highlands over the next 20-40 years. For example:

Economic Growth

The draft is near-silent on the strategic priorities for economic growth and on, for example, the sectoral breakdown and balance (public/private, SMEs, etc – other than passing references to small rural businesses and the role of crofting). Unless this is squarely addressed, issues of population, housing, energy and resource-management cannot realistically be considered.

Considerable attention is focused in the draft report on how to identify substantial amounts of land-for-housing, without clear indications of how this links to employment and economic activity.


Both the population projections and the housing needs deserve critical scrutiny. At present, the figures for presumed growth simply do not add up. They bear little relation to nationally-endorsed GROS estimates. The aspirational figures for the A96 (Inverness-Nairn) corridor are unrealistic and unacceptable: if implemented, the proposed strategy will exacerbate the existing developmental imbalance within the region.

Land-use priorities

The draft plan appears to believe it is possible to have cake and eat it. The draft sets out ambitious goals for urban development and residential expansion. At the same time, it refers at length to the safeguarding and utilisation of existing natural assets and the environment (agriculture/crofting, fishing, tourism, recreation/amenities, and related service industries). There is no recognition of the potential conflict between these objectives; indeed there seems to be a presumption in favour of development (e.g. prime agricultural land can be developed “if essential… for settlement strategy or necessary to meet an established need”). This tension is illustrated by, and is most acute in, the case of the A96 corridor, where development proposals are concentrated in a coastal zone which is one of the most agriculturally-productive, environmentally-important, and tourism-focused parts of the region.


There is no evidence of a proactive strategy to shape the infrastructure (notably road and rail, but also water and energy networks) in a way which will influence the pattern of development across the region. There is a transport strategy for Inverness (only). There are map-symbols showing “Active Travel Masterplan locations” elsewhere, with no explanation of what these represent. The draft says little on water supply and drainage, and says nothing substantive about hydro-power (but plenty about windfarms and marine renewables!).

Integrated planning

There is some reference to southward transport links, but despite the mention of the strategic transport routes identified in the NPF2, the draft MIR seems to think the known world stops just beyond Auldearn and that there is neither need nor opportunity to look, or link, eastwards from the Highland region. A coherent development plan would identify common objectives and scope for coordination and integration with the neighbouring regions. This is particularly relevant in terms of the Moray Firth coast, and perhaps also the Lochaber/Argyll area. Similarly, the relationship between the plan for the Highlands, and the planning and development of the Cairngorm National Park (which overlaps with Highland region) is unclear."

More views just in

APTSec is continuing to post views that are being forwarded to me regarding the MIR and issues and queries surrounding.

A view from Nairnshire

"Thank you for sending me hard copy of the draft MIR which has proved very useful; it fits readily under my enlarging camera. Having now read the bulk of the report, I am concerned that it does not properly fulfill its function in a major respect and would be grateful for clarification and further your earliest convenience.

This is NOT a response to the MIR; it is a request for the information necessary to make an informed response. In view of the short timescale allowed for response on what is a vital matter throughout Highland, I would ask you to supply the information with all speed. I feel strongly that, in order to meet the requirements laid down by Government, it should be made available to the general public forthwith.

Planning Circular 1, February 2009, states that main issues reports should be "sufficiently clear and precise" for the public to make "meaningful comments" and must contain "one or more sets of reasonable alternative proposals"

In the case of the A96 Corridor in a section comprising 15 pages there are two very short paragraphs purporting to give such alternatives. Each is simply a slightly different "approach" or way of arriving at exactly the same end as the Council's preferred option: neither is a true alternative. For Caithness and North Sutherland and for Easter Ross the formula used is "The Council has not identified any reasonable alternatives to the Preferred Option on this issue". There is no indication of the inter-related effects of one area's option on its neighbours.

Clearly no choice is offered. It is therefore farcical to suggest that members of the public can make any choice. let alone an informed one. I would ask you please to supply a true reasonable alternative for each area, or at very least a reasoned explanation of the grounds on which it was decided - and by whom - that no such alternative exists. Without this information the MIR does not fulfil its remit."

Yours sincerely

Nairnites must be vigilant

The Forres Gazette reported recently:


"ROBERTSON HOMES have revealed plans to hold a public consultation around proposals to construct a new estate on the Lochyhill site adjacent to Forbeshill.

The site is now identified on the new Local Plan as suitable for housing, and Robertsons have announced their intention to build on the site.

The Local Plan made provision for around 90 homes, with access from the A96.

It is expected that the plans will be advertised in the "Forres Gazette", with further details emerging of a public "drop-in" event to be held at a suitable local venue."

If APTSec remembers correctly, Robertson Homes have plans to build in Nairn and along with Scotia and Barratt sponsored the Enquiry by Design workshops for the land at South Nairn. It will be interesting to see just what they are proposing for Forres in terms of mix of tenures and how many units they propose to build on the site.

Click here to link to details of the latest release of Robertson Homes properties in Inverness. Their interactive web site provides tours of properties.

Sunday, 27 September 2009

Quote of the Week

As Abraham Lincoln put it, “Whenever there is a conflict between human rights and property rights, human rights must prevail.” Property rights are meant to advance human well-being, not as an excuse to disregard it.

[Well it is actually last week's quote which APTSec omitted to post]

Highlands and Islands; Enterprise?

"Through want of enterprise and faith men are where they are, buying and selling, and spending their lives like serfs" Henry David Thoreau

Enterprise can be defined as a willingness to undertake new ventures; initiative, as well as being an industrious activity directed towards profit.

"Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE) is the Scottish Government’s economic and community development agency for a diverse region which covers more than half of Scotland.

HIE aims to build sustainable economic growth in all parts of the Highlands and Islands."

HIE states that it will deliver an integrated strategic approach as dictated by the Government's Economic Strategy; that includes:

"Strengthening communities, especially in the fragile parts of the area"

According to an item in the West Highland Free Press there appears to be some concern as to whether or not this is happening.

The Relocation of Inverness College (with £25 million of investment in a new education and business park) and the Scottish Agricultural College, along with a range of businesses, on farmland to the east of the city running hand-in-hand with plans by Highland Council to develop the A96 corridor out to Nairn, has sparked a range of criticism. The paper reports that the announcement that a huge chunk of HIE’s budget is to be spent on a prosperous area has drawn a furious reaction from the Western Isles, where the agency’s contribution in 2009 has so far amounted to just £350,000.

HIE defends its past record, and insists that the Inverness Campus project will benefit the region as a whole.

However this is not the first time that criticism has been levelled. In July 2008 the Press and Journal reported:

"Campaigners have warned of “another Highland Clearance” if planners press ahead with massive development between Inverness and Nairn during a period of national economic turmoil.

Pressure group Action for Planning Transparency (APT) wants independent consultants to review Highland Council’s ambitious proposals for creating businesses and three entire communities within the 15-mile stretch of the co-called A96 corridor."

An APT spokesperson said:

“The council must also look at a fairer distribution to avoid a repeat of a Highland Clearance – so people can stay where they want to stay and maintain a vibrancy throughout the whole of the Highlands.”

And the P and J also reported in March 2009 that, whilst delivering the fourth in a series of Stirling Lectures, Madhu Satsangi, a senior lecturer in housing studies at Stirling University, commented:

Despite the good intentions of many, the big push has been to encourage growth in the larger cities instead, which means that community members migrate away from the rural Highlands,” he said. “I call it the Modern Day Clearances.” He also stated:

"Historically, we haven’t built sufficient housing to meet the demand in the social sector,” Mr Satsangi said. “One reason for this is the shortage of land available, much of which is held in the private sector and owned by large estates."

We are all supposed to be looking at the Main Issues facing Highland and how a Highland-wide Plan could address these issues. If we let this opportunity go by, well it would not be very enterprising of us, would it?