Friday, 8 April 2011

Inverness Airport Business Park; when the press comes calling

Yesterday teatime I received a call from the P and J asking for a comment on the news they gave me; news that development was at last going to start on farmland set aside for the proposed Inverness Airport Business Park.

As is always the case APTSec was unable to provide the reporter with a 'soundbite' response, given; the complexities of the planning process, my lack of precise recollection of the exact wording of the particulars of our response to the Airport Business Park Planning Application (as I stood in my kitchen at teatime), the fact that I knew little of the particulars of this 'new deal' and it was clear that a very quick (and potentially short) response was going to be needed by the paper.

Unfortunately I cannot access any details on the paper's web site (not being a subscriber) and have not as yet had an opportunity to purchase a copy of the paper so I cannot comment on any of the material in the P and J at this moment.

I have, however, been able to access an item in the Scotsman here

The Scotsman item states that:

AN INDUSTRIAL property firm has agreed to pour £30 million into developing more than 400,000sq ft of business space at Inverness Airport.

The Roxhill development will account for 30 acres of the 250 hectare Inverness Airport Business Park, which forms part of the A96 "growth corridor", linking Inverness and Nairn.

Going back to the Officer's Report to the Inverness Planning Committee (Jan 2010, at which OPP was granted), the report notes that the application was for the development of a business park within 200ha of land west and south of Inverness Airport with development expected to extend over a 50 year period in four distinct phases to 2011, 2021, 2041 and 2061.

The granting of planning permission in principle for a business park upon 200ha of land was dependent upon a number of conditions including that, ."...a 'masterplan' for the whole site shall be submitted, for the prior approval of the planning authority in advance of any subsequent matters specified by condition, which include..." etc

On further reading of the 2010 committee report it is worth noting that the transport assessment submitted by the applicant at that time could not rigorously support development proposals beyond 2021 and only 71,344 sqm of development can come forward in phase 1 (doing a quick on-line calculation to convert the 400,000sq ft gives approx 37,000 sqm for the 'new deal'). Within phase 1, after the occupation of 36,044 sqm gross floor space, improvement of the Mid Coul Roundabout, improvement of 3 short sections of the B9039 (to be examined) and funding (yet to be agreed) for enhancement of pubic transport services are all required. With regard to the further 3 phases, a commitment in principle to the A96 funding protocol was also required.

So as far as the planning process is concerned, there is still a way to go. It is also worth noting that the adopted Inverness Local Plan sets aside less than 80ha for a fully masterplanned economic initiative at the airport and the new Highland-wide Local Development Plan, Proposed Plan (20 year timescale) makes little reference at all to the plans for a business park - please see comments summarised under Issue 9 which will be considered by the Reporter.

Thursday, 7 April 2011

Focus on economic growth reinforced through party Manifestos

We approach the Scottish Parliamentary elections and the parties are publishing manifestos. APTSec was thinking this morning about posting on how each party will approach planning. (The SNP manifesto is not yet published but readers of the blog will be conversant with official Government statements on planning reforms to date).

The Lib Dems' statements on planning include:

  • Support a flexible and well-resourced planning and development regime to help speed up consents, reflect local views and allow quicker decisions for businesses who want to invest in Scotland. We will make economic development a material consideration in the planning process to help get development projects off the ground more quickly.

  • Using planning regulations to create an innovative Home On The Farm scheme for more affordable homes from disused and underused farm buildings, giving farmers a new income, ensuring farm succession and providing homes for local people.

  • Encourage the use of feed-in tariffs to benefit people who install small-scale renewable electricity generation and change planning regulations to support these and renewable heat measures in homes and businesses.

  • Provide much-needed local housing by bringing Scotland’s 70,000 empty homes back into use, giving housing associations more flexibility and helping meet rural needs through community land trusts.

  • Work with stakeholders to review the current forestry target and agree an ambitious forest planting strategy. We will increase annually the net productive forest cover and support our timber industries. We will, however, avoid disproportionate burdens on communities and protect good agricultural land.

  • Work with communities and developers and operators to guarantee fair and meaningful community benefits from commercial renewable energy developments, including allowing communities that host projects to keep the additional business rates they generate. We will seek to combine this with our proposals for community land trusts, so land and housing can be bought and paid for by the energy generated within the development.

  • Strengthen the Land Use Strategy with clear objectives and actions to fight climate change and help manage the competing demands on Scotland’s natural environment. This will include action to restore and protect Scotland’s valuable peatlands and woodlands and a sensible siting strategy for new renewable energy developments.

  • Develop community land trusts to secure and develop land within remote or rural communities providing affordable local homes to help keep rural areas vibrant.

The latest from Labour covered by 'Planning Daily' (By Jamie Carpenter Thursday, 07 April 2011) link here


"The party’s
2011 election manifesto, published yesterday, says that the party would carry out a "health check" on recent changes to Scotland’s planning system, "updating the National Planning Framework with wide input from industry to ensure that it is delivering for Scotland".

The party’s manifesto says that economic benefit "should be one for the key considerations when making planning decisions". "We want to see a culture in planning that tries to assist economic growth and sustainable development, while also taking into account other factors, such as the impact on communities," the manifesto adds.

The manifesto also says that the Scottish Labour Party would create a new "city growth fund" to support Scotland’s cities, alongside "new powers and responsibilities to drive growth".

The party would also "ensure that local authorities can retain a proportion of all business rates raised through increased economic activity," the document says."

I have had a quick look through and other statements made in the Labour Manifesto include

  • Our aim is to ensure the very best standards of architecture and building design are met, in school-building projects and all new government-funded building programmes. We will seek to strengthen the skills and capacity of local authorities to promote good design, and ensure that quality and excellence are at the heart of the planning system;

  • We will therefore prioritise the creation of green jobs in renewable technologies – aiming for up to 60,000 by 2015 – and will speed up the granting of planning consent and build export opportunities to achieve this;

  • We will encourage the development of marine technology by doubling the value of the Saltire prize to £20 million. Any application for consent to new nuclear capacity will be considered on its merits, in terms of safety, environmental impact, the local community and other planning considerations.

Monday, 4 April 2011

So how will we build affordable housing now?

The Chief Planner writes to 'Heads of Planning' (at local authorities) on behalf of the Scottish Government:

(Extract, letter 15/03/2011)

I am writing to you now regarding requirements for developers to contribute towards affordable housing. In particular I would like to raise the importance the Scottish Government attaches to planning policies, and the implementation of these policies, reflecting the current economic climate.

Scottish Planning Policy (SPP) states...

My letter of 29 October 2010 stressed the importance the Scottish Government places on removing constraints to the development of housing land in the current economic climate. Authorities will also be aware of the significantly lower levels of public funding that are likely to be available to support the development of affordable housing in the coming years. In these circumstances I suggest that authorities, in drawing up and implementing planning policies on affordable housing, should consider:

  • Whether contributions of 25% or more are likely to be deliverable in the current economic climate. Levels of affordable housing requirement that act to stifle overall levels of housing development are likely to be counter-productive. In certain cases the effect could be that development would not proceed at all.
  • The nature of affordable housing need in an area and the extent to which this can be met by proposals capable of development with little or no public subsidy. It is counter-productive to secure land for proposals requiring high levels of subsidy unless the authority is confident that a source for this subsidy can be identified.
So what will this mean in practice? What will happen to developments needed to contribute to affordable housing numbers; developments which are also heavily dependent on the provision of road infrastructure requiring subsidy for their viablity?

Highland's 'Housing Need and Demand Assessment' states:

The vast majority of affordable housing requires to be social rented – shared equity or mid-rent housing can take only a small fraction of households in housing need out of it.

And it is also said that some areas (Nairn perhaps?) need more social housing than 'Market Value' to keep up with the need.

See here for full letter.

(Thanks to Nairn contact for sending the link.)