Wednesday, 12 May 2010

So much for the reassurance?

Stay with me on this one OK.

Imagine the scene; summer 2010 and we're all sitting at our desks composing our representations as part of the consultation on the proposed HwLDP**. We each know that we have to put in the best response we can because there is no automatic right to submit any further representations on the Highland-wide Plan - not quite the last chance saloon, but close!

So, we should be able to say what we want and feel that what we say could influence the decisions that are made regarding how the place we live develops in the future, yes?

Now, we know that at the end of the plan process any unresolved issues will go to a Reporter for Examination. With the new Planning Act, Examinations are intended as the principal means of independently testing the issues arising from representations on proposed development plans. The Examinations report is, unlike the report prepared by the Reporter under the old Public Local Inquiry system, largely binding on the Local Authority.

But what about if the Highland -wide Plan provides for significant development for the A96 Corridor?

Well, try this for size;

The Scottish Government, "is committed to creating a more successful Scotland by increasing sustainable economic growth. The second National Planning Framework ( NPF2) takes forward the spatial aspects of that commitment, setting out a strategy for long-term development."

NPF2 is a significant policy document and Paragraph 214 of NPF2 says:

"The A96 corridor between Inverness and Nairn is the main focus of growth in the Inner Moray Firth. Highland Council's A96 Corridor Development Framework includes proposals designed to accommodate an additional 30,000 people in the area over 35 years. These include significant expansion to the East of Inverness and at Nairn, the creation of a new settlement at Tornagrain, and a residential and marina development at Whiteness. Development on this scale will require substantial investment in transport and water and drainage infrastructure and the creation of supporting green infrastructure. The STPR has identified the need to dual the A96 between Inverness and Nairn and provide a new rail station, airport interchange and park-and-ride facilities at Dalcross. It has also identified a package of improvements to the Aberdeen - Inverness rail line which would reduce journey times between the two cities by 20 minutes and improve the connectivity of communities along the route."

APT was not happy that developments for the A96 Corridor were included in the NPF2 before they had been through a local plan process. Back in 2008 our MSPs, Mary Scanlon and Peter Peacock, asked questions on our behalf in Parliament as part of the debate on the NPF2 and received assurance from SNP Government Minister Stewart Stevenson, as Mr Stevenson addressed the question of the interaction between the second National Planning Framework and development in the A96 Corridor as follows,

The reference reflects work undertaken by Highland Council to plan for and manage growth pressures in the long term. Highland Council will decide how it integrates a strategy for management of this growth into development plan policies for the area. The Council continues to lead on this work. The reference in the proposed NPF in no way prejudges the outcome of the development plan preparation process.

Should we feel reassured by that? Well APTSec might have been until I read this in 'Planning Circular 1 2009 - Development Planning':

61. Examination reports are largely binding on planning authorities. Regulation 2 of the Town and Country Planning (Grounds for declining to follow recommendations) (Scotland) Regulations 2009 states that authorities may only depart from recommendations that:

a) Would have the effect of making the LDP inconsistent with the National Planning Framework, or with any SDP or national park plan for the same area;

So what now?

What happens if a good case is presented against some of the proposed development in the A96 Corridor and the Reporter agrees and the prepared report and recommendations reflect that? Could the Council then argue that this contradicts 'National' policy and that they do not have to be bound by the Reporter's recommendations? The council put forward the A96 Corridor developments for inclusion in the NPF 2. With the publication of these regulations how can this not be seen as 'prejudging' the outcome?

Whilst there were reassurances made by the former Director of Planning to Fergus Ewing that we could comment 'unfetterred' on issues underlying the proposals, it seems that as far as the ability for our views to taken on board is concerned then we are very much constrained?

The circular here is worth a look

APTSec will be focusing on gaining clarification on this point.

** The latest from a senior planning officer speaking at a local Community Council AGM is that the HwLDP will not go before councillors in May; it will be a 'strategy' document that is put before the council committee. APTSec is seeking further details.

Monday, 10 May 2010

Come along and join us on Friday 14th

This week

Friday 14th May

Spectrum Centre


5pm - 6.15 pm

With the publication of the Proposed Highland-wide Local Development Plan imminent – May 2010 – I am sure that we are all keen to get as much information and training as possible to help us to respond to any matters of interest that the Plan brings forward. I have been successful in securing an opportunity for us to meet with Mr Liddell, a Scottish Government Planner, on one of the few days that he visits THC in Inverness. He will give a short presentation leaving enough time for plenty of questions on development planning.

(Room opens at 4.15 so come along for a chat first if you can and there will some time afterwards to digest the contents of the meeting and focus on more local issues after Mr Liddell has departed)