Friday, 6 November 2009

The clock is ticking

The deadline for submission of views on the Main Issues Report to inform the preparation of the proposed Highland-wide Local Development Plan is Monday 9th November.

The Council has said (in the press) that it will continue to receive responses until the end of November, but my advice would be, get something in if you can by the deadline with a note saying that you will add to it (if you need to that is)

Buildings across Highland; Ardersier

Ardersier Parish Church

Thursday, 5 November 2009

Enquiry by Design in the news again

A keen eyed contact spotted this item in the Times:

"Prince’s Foundation causes alarm with close links to housebuilder"

The Times article continues:

"The Prince’s Foundation for the Built Environment has embarked on a ground-breaking mission with Scotia Homes, a family-owned housebuilder, to inject model urban communities into five settlements in Scotland."

"The developer commissions and pays for the foundation to go into towns and villages, carry out consultations and prepare master plans for the local communities, as well as to help to persuade authorities of their merits."

"The Prince’s Foundation begins by going into each community and conducting a procedure that it calls “Enquiry by Design”.

The Scottish Government also appears to be quite keen to work with the Prince's Foundation. According to the Scottish Government web pages:

"A seminar was hosted by the Scottish Government and the Prince's Foundation for the Built Environment at Holyrood Palace on June 3, 2009. The event was designed to inspire Scotland's young talent who will be involved in the future place making agenda. "

"As a pre-cursor to the Holyrood seminar, a study trip to Poundbury was organised by the Scottish Government. It took place on May 13, 2009. Noel Isherwood from the Prince's Foundation for the Built Environment and Simon Connibear of The Duchy of Cornwall Office provided presentations, a tour and a masterplanning masterclass.

Everybody who attended the Poundbury study trip has been invited to the Holyrood Seminar (approx. 40 guests). The other delegates who have been invited to the seminar include a mixture of Scottish representatives from some local authorities, developers, house builders and transport engineers."

APTSec has stated previously that I personally was not left with a warm fuzzy feeling by the Enquiry by Design process that was carried out in Nairn, although I am aware that other attendees were impressed with the process and stated this fact.

Under the new planning system here in Scotland, applicants will have a statutory duty to consult local communities before an application is made for certain types of developments (likely to include all major development proposals; those that are significantly contrary to the development plan; those requiring an Environmental Impact Assessment ( EIA) and proposals for larger scale bad neighbour developments). Pre-application discussions between the planning authority and the applicant may address what form the Pre-application consultations should take and what is considered to be acceptable in the spirit of openness and transparency.

Whilst it is important for members of the public to engage with the planning system and be aware of all changes that affect their area; it will also, of course, be in the best interests of applicants (putting forward developments which fit the above criteria) to engage as fully as possible with the public as a way of gathering support for and speeding up the processing of their applications. Indeed, the Local Authority could reject any badly done public consultation submitted with an application.

Public support is therefore a very valuable asset, as is, I imagine knowledge of who or which group or section of the public is likely to object to any large proposal and what their grounds for objections are likely to be.

The more worrying thing though is whether or not it is appropriate for the Scottish Government to be closely involved with an organisation who conducts events sponsored by developers with respect to large applications that may well become the subject of planning appeals if planning permission is refused by the local decision makers.

Buildings across Highland; Nairn

Intelligence led policy

Changes in the economy have an impact on every community; but just how will the impact of global economic change affect us locally?

The Highland area relies on public services and public sector employment, the Housing, Need and Demand Assessment, HNDA, tells us:

"The period between 1998 and 2007 saw sustained economic growth in Highland and 20,000 extra jobs were created."

"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)."

It is vital that we have the right facts on which to base any plans for the future; economic forecasting is important.

Professor of Planning, SirPeter Hall wrote in '' recently:

"Experian isn't a name on everyone's lips. It's a fair bet that, if asked about it in the street, most people would return a blank stare

...It crunches data for a living..."

The Experian web site writes:

"Working in partnership with the public sector, Experian's insight, analysis and technology enables the efficient and effective delivery of public services to every UK citizen and business."

"Forecasting the future prospects of local, national and global economies is critical to the development and delivery of efficient public services."

"Safe and sustainable communities make effective use of resources, enhance the environment, promote social cohesion and inclusion and strengthen economic prosperity whilst offering services and infrastructure that are well-maintained, secure, accessible and cost-effective."

The HNDA is 'published in parallel' with the MIR and,

"...the feedback gained through consultation on the Development Plan Main Issues Report will be used to develop:
  • The Local Housing Strategy which will be published in November 2009; and
  • The Highland-Wide Local Development Plan, which will also be published in November 2009."
The HNDA is providing numbers and forecasts which will influence the proposed plan and the housing strategy, it is therefore important that we comment on how effectively it can help us to comment the Main Issues Report and inform the proposed plan.

Oh, and by the way, the dates above that are on the web site:

I spoke to someone form Highland Council Housing a couple of days ago and the Local Housing Strategy may not be out until January and the Development Plans Manager is informing those attending meetings that the proposed HwLDP will be out in 2010. Now I know that the Planning Department must be under a huge strain at the moment, but, I am tempted to say, so much for up to date info.

Wednesday, 4 November 2009

Buildings across Highland; Ardersier

The service point in Ardersier village

Which journey is preferable?

Look at these two views:

"I would like to see the public excited about development as opposed to living in fear of it - and there is plenty of actual experience to demonstrate the reasons for this fear. Planning affects every aspect of our lives from the cradle to the grave and is a crucial factor in dictating the quality of life for every individual, the system does not properly reflect this at the moment nor does it give ownership to local people. If you look at some of the most socially deprived communities in Glasgow that the decision makers didn't know what to do with - it was local people who got together to resolve the problems and very successfully too. Maybe it is a bit of a fantasy - but surely it is the outcome that we should be working towards? "

The extract above is from an e mail sent by Ann Coleman; the extract below from an APT supporter with respect to the plans for the area:

"For myself, I guess I've really given up. I've passed on all the words of wisdom that I've got, and others will have to carry the baton forward. There's so much money at stake here that the developers can and will bring in whatever legal teams they require to get their own way. They may be delayed, but they will win the day. Political support is also missing, and it's unlikely that it can be acquired. I feel a bit like a mosquito buzzing around a steer - and I do know that mosquitoes can kill a steer, but there's got to be a hell of a lot of them. We don't have the numbers.
However, I would never ask that you give up and if I have any (more) words of wisdom I'll pass them on."

With the ultimate goal of more public involvement finding solutions and creating better places and stronger communities, it would indeed be a shame if circumstances forced us to give up.

Come on all you mossies out there; lets attack the weaknesses in the system and show the politicians that we are worth their support.

Tuesday, 3 November 2009

A beautiful way to recycle

Smithton and Culloden Community Council decided to bring a little 'magic' into the lives of the community.
After discussions with Highland Council, it was decided that the remains of the some felled and dangerous trees should be used to provide 7 pieces of public art. The idea was inspired by the Lost Garden of Heligan in Cornwall, which has similar works of art in a classical style.
Local primary school children chose the designs as an art project and the CC topped up the total fund.
Some more info here

Monday, 2 November 2009

In danger of decline?

"The Highland Council has identified many parts of its area as “fragile”. These “fragile areas” are areas where there is a risk that the local communities may not be strong enough to survive. Fragile areas are defined as communities ‘being in decline or in danger of decline’ as a result of certain fragility indicators, which are unemployment, population decline and accessibility. This also serves as an accessibility index, as the indicator includes calculation of the proximity of the population to key services, Post Office, School, Food Shop, GP surgery and Petrol Station, measuring the proportion more than 20 mins drive away; and the numbers more than 1.5 hrs from the main town/city.

Furthermore, the Highland Council delivers services across an area with the lowest population density of all UK local authorities. Overall, Highland has only 8 people per square kilometre, falling to 2 per square kilometre in Sutherland, compared with 66 people per square kilometre in Scotland as a whole. Front line services are decentralised for effective delivery, and it is believed additional costs of some £12m per annum are incurred in delivering services to the 26% of the population who live in "supersparse" areas1. This is not recognised in Grant Aided Expenditure (GAE) funding. Many of our remote communities are in danger of decline as the population ages and young people move to major centres such as Inverness in search of further education, or more secure and better paid employment.

In very strong contrast with the rural locations, there has been high population growth in Inverness itself and along the InvernessNairn corridor (A96). This pattern is likely to continue as further land is identified for development, and endorsed in the development plan process. During the last 30 years the Inverness city region population has grown by almost 32,000, with the expectation that a further 30,000 people will be housed in the corridor over the next 30 plus years."

Surely this goes to the very heart of the debate in terms of any new plans for the HIE area. APTSec is currently reading about 'Supersparsity ', also, 'Grant Aided Expenditure' and 'Recurrent Revenue' .

[Extracts: sections 2.10, 2.12 and 2.13 of the draft Local Transport Strategy for the Highlands - September 2009]

What's the deal with House prices?


"House prices grew by 0.2 per cent in October, according to the latest national survey by housing intelligence consultancy Hometrack today" (Planning on-line)


"...Hometrack’s director of research Richard Donnell warned there is a marked slowdown in the rate of growth in the volume of new buyers registering with agents"

Hardly surprising if you read the survey results in an article in the business section of today's Press and Journal:

"...borrowers with small deposits were also being charged far higher rates than those with larger ones, as lenders priced in the extra risk involved in advancing money to these homeowners."

According to one comparison site:

"As a result, someone borrowing £100,000 on an average two-year fixed-rate mortgage with a deposit of only 10% to 20% can expect to pay about £98.51 more each month, or nearly £2,400 over two years, than those with a 40% deposit or equity stake."

Local Authority climate role?

The latest issue of Planning on-line tells APTSec:

"EU heads of state and government have officially recognised the role of local authorities in implementing climate change mitigation and adaptation policies

"Eurocities, a network which brings together the local authorities of 140 large cities in 34 European countries said: "Until today, local authorities were not officially seen as a strong partner in the fight against climate change. We are satisfied that Members States have reached a political agreement which recognises that cities can make a difference. Global challenges require local actions; we are ready to show how."

Excellent; now, exactly when will you show us and exactly what are you going to do?

'Buildings across Highland'; Nairn Museum

Views in the HIE area

Thank you for the buildings

APTSec wishes to thank all members who have responded to the request for pictures to illustrate the range of 'public' and industrial buildings across the Highlands and Islands.

I won't be able to put them up all at once but I will try and put at least one up every day over the next few weeks so please keep looking at the blog to view your contribution.

There are still a few areas that are missing, so keep sending them in. I will also be posting pictures off 'Views across Highland' as well.

[A few suggestions as to what you could forward; Schools - no children in view please; hospitals, railway stations, leisure centres, community halls, churches and church buildings, shops, offices, theatres etc etc]

'Buildings across Highland'; Croy Primary

The primary school in Croy village on a lovely warm summer day.

You may find this table clearer

With thanks to my ever supportive spouse!

Sunday, 1 November 2009

Community Facilities in Rural Scotland:

...A Study of Their Use, Provision and Condition

Extract from the begining and end of the research :

"Rural community facilities ( RCFs) are local assets which serve as central points or "hubs", and as venues for service provision, from within and outwith the community, sometimes providing for the co-location of multiple services. The main aims of this commissioned research were to gather and analyse data on the current provision and condition of rural community facilities and to assess the levels and nature of their use."

"This research illustrates the central role that community facilities - and the dedicated volunteers who manage them - play in the lives of many of rural Scottish communities, as hubs for local activity and service-provision and in the sustenance and development of social and human capital. There is a vast diversity of buildings and management models, of uses and users, of facilities and needs. Just as varied are the difficulties and challenges to their survival faced by individual facilities, but the research has also captured the opportunities for sharing lessons, expertise and skills between facilities across the country which will help them adapt to a changing funding landscape and the demands placed upon them."

Why not click on the link above and read some of the sections in between.

Buildings across Highland

The new Highland Archive and Registration Centre - opened October 2009.

Did APTSec choose the best angle to take the picture from with the basic 'point and shoot' camera?

The importance of Youth

I noted a full page add in the Economist (Oct 31st - Nov 6th 2009)


"Turkey, with its booming economy, rising industry and young population, stands out among the rest. Its potential for renewable energy resources offers promising energy support for sustainable and environmentally-conscious development."

The Ad included some facts and figures:

Pop 72 million with average age 28.5
61% below age 34
450,000 graduates per year from 143 universities

Why not tip the balance in favour of affordable housing?

Extract from the Highland Housing Need and Demand Assessment Consultation Draft August 2009 (HNDA)

"There are parts of Highland – eg Nairn – in which the requirement for open market housing appears to be low (138) relative to the need for affordable housing (430) implying little need for open market housing. In reality the funding is unlikely to be available for the full need and households in need will find solutions for themselves in the open market eg through high housing costs or subsidised renting solutions. Developers should also respond to the market by providing open market and low cost and starter homes."

So, why doesn't Government, this SNP Government, or any other 'flavour' of Government, take the 'bull by the horns' and deal with this problem of affordable housing?

Does it all still come down to 'Developer' Contributions needed for infrastructure and the only way to get that is through incorporating it into the sale price of open market housing to private buyers - some of whom may be struggling to get an mortgage?

Tradesmen and suppliers would be employed in the construction industry as long as the houses were being built; just why aren't we solving this problem.

So much for Population growth across the Highlands

HIE aspired to grow the population to 500,000 across the whole of its area by 2025, then it stated in 2008 (NPF2 response page 5) that it aspires to grow the population throughout the area by 15% 'in 20 years or so'.

Using figures to 2031 available on the General Register Office of Statistics web pages, it seems that even using the highest plausible statistical alternative for migration (migration upon which the Highlands is reliant for the population increase) only gives a total population figure of486,677 by 2031, with some areas losing out.

According to the GROS Glossary - extract:

Population Projection

Estimate of the future size and other demographic characteristics of a population, based on an assessment of past trends and assumptions about the future course of demographic behaviour (fertility, mortality, and net migration).

They are plausible scenarios, not forecasts or predictions.

For details of issues and methodology see our Population Projections page.


[Explanation is not included with above table but is available. 'Inverness and East Highland' is Inverness and Nairn, Badenoch and Strathspey and Ross and Cromarty (and some of this population comes under 'Inner Moray Firth'.)]