Saturday, 17 September 2011

Broadband, Flooding, Wind, Paths, and Biodiversity; Latest Planning Committee Agenda

A meeting of the Planning, Environment and Development Committee will take place in the Council Chamber, Council Headquarters, Glenurquhart Road, Inverness onWednesday 21 September 2011 at 10.30am.


3. Presentation on Next Generation Broadband Provision in the Highlands

8. Physical Constraints Supplementary Guidance – Post Consultation Amendments

9. Small-Scale Wind Turbine Supplementary Guidance - Draft

10. Flooding – Draft Supplementary Guidance

11. Highland Council Core Path Plan

13. Outcome of Consultation on Trees, Woodland and Development
Supplementary Guidance

14. Highland Council’s Biodiversity Duty Delivery Plan 2011-14

15. Inverness Airport Business Park – Annual Report

16. Caithness and North Sutherland Regeneration Minutes

links to agenda and hence to reports for items above here

Planning as noted in the Scottish Gov's Economic Strategy


Our focus on Infrastructure Development and Place looks to harness the strength and quality of our cities, towns and rural areas, including coastal communities, and to ensure that Scotland is positioned to take full advantage of the opportunities offered by the digital age and the transition to a low carbon economy.

Our focus on place is also about enhancing the quality of our areas as places to live and work; by improving the overall quality of life in our communities. This is dependent upon the quality and accessibility of the facilities and environment – both physical and natural – in our communities, which will also contribute to our ambitions for a healthier Scotland.

Achieving our Purpose requires a planning system that both protects the quality of Scotland’s natural and built environment as an asset for sustainable economic growth and enables the
development of growth-enhancing activities across Scotland.

More here

A view of a planning system

"Planning is essential in order to ensure developments benefit those in most need. Thus council housing is more important than the highly profitable buy-to-rent sector.

Greenbelts and national parks are actually more important than motorways and business parks - protecting our environment and our communities ought to be at the heart of the planning process, not at the disposal end of it."

More here

Thursday, 15 September 2011

Report: Scotland needs to measure planning meaningfully

A robust framework by which the effectiveness of Scottish planning system can be measured should be introduced, a report from the national spending watchdog urges today.

The report from Audit Scotland, Modernising the Planning System, urges that while the time taken to make decisions on planning applications is an important measure of how a planning system is operating, it is insufficient in measuring the quality of the system.

The report states: "Many aspects of development management are not currently monitored, assessed or reported, for example pre-application activities, community engagement and the local appeals process."

It continues: "Performance should be assessed across a broader range of measures that gives a more comprehensive view of how the planning system is performing."

The Scottish planning system was reformed in 2006 with the intention of making it more efficient, more encouraging of development, easier to understand and more inclusive of communities. The Audit Scotland report aims to assess the extent to which this has happened.

The Royal Town Planning Institute’s national director for Scotland, Craig McClaren, agreed that a "more comprehensive measurement framework" is required.

He said: "Speed of decision can be important, but there is a need to take a more holistic view of performance." He added that the RTPI supports work currently being undertaken by membership body Heads of Planning Scotland and the Scottish government that takes into consideration a wider range of factors, such as stakeholder engagement and the quality of development.

The report also showed that the speed of decision making on small applications has remained largely constant throughout the changes to the Scottish planning system. In 2004/5, 63 per cent of small applications where decided within two months, compared to 65 per cent in 2009/10, the report says.

However, the report says that the amount of time it takes to decide large applications has increased over the same period. In 2004/5 52 per cent of large applications were decided within four months, compared to 38 per cent in 2009/10.

The report says that a great deal has been achieved in modernising the Scottish system, but adds that there is still a great deal to be done before the new system is up and running.

The new system in Scotland requires all 34 planning authorities – comprising 32 local authorities and two national parks – to produce local development plans (LDPs) for their areas every five years.

It also divides 19 authorities into four city regions, which are then required to produce strategic development plans (SDPs) every five years covering matters that require cross-boundary collaboration, such as housing and transport.

Authorities have only been able to prepare SDPs and LDPs since the end of 2008.

However, the report says that almost two thirds of authorities have delayed the dates by which time they expect to submit plans to the Scottish government for inspection, and shows that 56 per cent have pushed back their submission dates within the last year.

The report also notes that the differential between the money councils earn through planning fees and the cost of processing applications has increased significantly, rising from £6.7 million in 2004/5 to £20.8 million in 2009/10.

Modernising the planning system can be read here.

Article link here

Highland Council seek views on new guidance to developers on flooding matters

The Highland Council is underlining its commitment to tackling flooding by issuing improved and more detailed guidance to developers on how to address flooding matters when they design and implement their proposals for development.

During the autumn, the Council will ask the public and the development industry to comment on a draft of this new advice, which has been prepared in conjunction with technical input from various sources including the Scottish Environment Protection Agency.

The advice has been in preparation for some time but has been augmented to reflect the outcomes of recent flood events. The purpose is to ensure that the principle of not making flooding any worse in an area post development is translated into detailed planning, construction and maintenance practice. The guidance also sets out the wider context on "who does what" in terms of flooding responsibilities which should aid the public's understanding of the role of each public agency, developers and individuals.

The matter will be discussed by the Council’s Planning Environment and Development Committee on Wednesday (21 September).

Committee Chairman Councillor Ian Ross said: “This guidance demonstrates the Council’s commitment to improving flood prevention provision. This has been in development for some time but the recent floods just highlight the importance of this guidance. We want to hear the views of communities and developers – and are keen to promote effective partnership working.

“We hope the development industry and public will respond positively to the draft guidance, which is part of the Council's wider climate change agenda, and we will welcome suggestions and further refinements once we publish the guidance in the autumn. An 8 week period will be available for comments. A copy of the guidance will be available via the Council's web site and paper copies will be available free of charge to interested parties."

He said that clearer, more detailed, technical guidance would help practitioners - chiefly developers' engineers and planning application case officers - make more informed and consistent judgements about flooding issues. One material change in policy was the suggestion for a defined no development buffer alongside watercourses within development sites. This would reduce the developable area on sites but would allow for natural changes in the alignment of burns, reduce the risk of blockages, and allow limited overtopping without damage to adjoining properties.

He added: “On a similar theme, developers will be asked to provide details of where extreme flood event water will be routed if such an event occurs. The emphasis is on working with the natural environment not against it. For example a firmer policy objective will be the retention and, if necessary, re-creation of natural watercourses and where appropriate removal of constricting culverts, with the inclusion of associated development setback. Scottish law and Highland policy already sets a robust framework on flooding issues and the guidance is very much about putting principles into practice."

Link here

Civic Voice warning

Pledges made by ministers to 'put communities in control' have been swept away by the draft National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF), according to the national charity representing civic societies across England.

Civic Voice argues in a document outlining its "key issues" in relation to the NPPF that existing guidance stating that the views of local communities should be heard in developing planning policies is "set to be lost and support for local listing of buildings and structures to be dropped, denying a voice for the very people who know their area best".

The document said that the NPPF is also "weak in valuing the community view at the very earliest stages of preparing plans and drawing up development proposals".

The charity has also called for the removal of any bias in planning policy towards economic growth.

"The default answer to development is to be yes and councils should give permission wherever possible", the document said.

"Even the policies in local and neighbourhood plans are to be drawn up to do ‘everything it can to support sustainable economic growth’. Where there isn’t a plan or there are no relevant policies there is a free-for-all and local authorities are told simply to ‘grant permission’".

The document concluded: "This isn’t fair and local communities will increasingly challenge the results and lose faith in the system."

It also said that the NPPF lacks a "strong geographical rationale" setting out the preferred locations for development.

"We fear the sprawling nature of new building that will result will add deadweight costs to the economy as the costs to the public and private sector and to communities from additional infrastructure and increased travel costs mount up", the document said.

Link here