Thursday, 26 April 2012

'Be a Councillor Campaign'

I received an email today from the Local Government Association thanking me for expressing an interest in their new ‘Be a Councillor’ campaign.  I cannot remember making the enquiry, but then, I visit many web sites, send a fair few emails and speak to a number of people in my quest for knowledge on planning and related matters.

The LGA have recently re-launched the relevant website with a range of information available to assist  with decisions re '...representing your local community as an elected member'.

View the ‘Be a Councillor’ website

I was intrigued by their 'X Factor' - Talent Spotters Recruitment Guide for LG Elections, here are a few quotes:

...Local government is only ever as vibrant, effective and relevant as the people elected
to run it. The decisions made by councillors in England’s district, borough, metropolitan,
unitary and county councils affect people’s quality of life in countless ways, from education to housing and regeneration, community safety, environment, roads, care for older people, sport and culture, and helping local businesses to thrive.

...Increasing the pool of talent from which councillors are elected is a key challenge
for local government. Only by encouraging the brightest stars to stand for election can
we ensure that councils are able to do the best for their communities. We need plenty of
high-quality prospective councillors ready and willing to work hard and make a difference
to their local communities.

...We need councillors who are capable, vibrant, energetic and engaged, with a commitment
to local people and a passion for change. Ensuring that councils better represent their
electorate is not simply a case of encouraging more diversity in terms of age, gender
or ethnicity, although that does play a part in making councils more relevant. The most
important thing is raising the quality of all councillors. We need different kinds of people
willing to stand for election, whether for a party or as Independent candidates, to get a
choice of quality candidates.

...The number of Britons who are members of the three main political parties is estimated to be fewer than 500,000. From this small proportion of the population is drawn most of the elected politicians who exercise democratic power.

...We risk ignoring the greater potential of our communities if we confine our councillor candidate recruitment to local party members, activists, safe pairs of hands and ‘friends’.
We need councils that truly represent the local population. This is not just about diversity by
race, gender, age, experience or education; mostly it is about talent and ability, potential and ambition.

It is now just a week away to the elections, with 170 candidates soon to become 80 councillors.   Will the make-up of the new Highland Council be 'All Change' or 'More of the Same'?

COSLA produce a A Candidate’s Guide to Becoming a Councillor however, I am in the process of  sending an email query to COSLA to ask if they have a similar initiative to the one mentioned above - I'll update this post with the reply.


Very fast response from COSLA with links to both the 'Candidates Guide' as linked immediately above and a link to another page of information here on the Improvement Service.  Not quite the same campaigning stance.  Perhaps I shall ask if they have any plans to prepare the ground for the next local authority elections?

Inverness Campus

I attended election hustings recently and one of the questions to the candidates concerned the impact that the Campus would have on the settlements to the East of Inverness.

To see what's planned, and to consider what the campus will bring to both the local, wider and still wider area (and to  keep up with the latest news and developments)  visit 

Don't forget to get to grips with the new local plans...

...your future depends on it

Have those of you who live in the area  looked at the Main Issues Report for the Inner Moray Firth Plan yet?

I must admit with all the kerfuffle surrounding the forthcoming local elections I have been slow to get to grips with this Issues Report.

Why is it important?  Well according the Planning Authority:

The Plan is the Council’s principal document for helping it decide on planning applications and 
land use priorities at the local level. We must operate within a national and Highland context 

but many local choices remain to be made as to which sites should be built on and what would 

be considered an appropriate use on a site.

What does the Highland Council want to know?  According to the MIR:

2.6 We would like you to tell us what you think about our initial site and policy preferences
and your own. If you think we’ve missed out a large site within a main settlement site that
should be developed or a similar area of valued greenspace please let us know.

2.7 There will be an opportunity to lodge formal objection to any particular site at the next
Plan stage (Proposed Plan draft). Please wait until then if you wish to do so. At this stage we’d like your preferences between sites and reasons. If you don’t like a site proposed for
development think about how it compares to other options in your City, town or village and tell us why other sites are better

The deadline for submission of comments is Friday 6th July 2012. 

I find that things always take longer than I think they will so why not have a quick read now 

Keep up to date with events by visiting

Oh and you can find the plan on-line here

Tuesday, 24 April 2012

'Victor' tells you how to vote

Find 'Victor' on YouTube here

The Role of a Councillor

The role of a councillor
Councillors play a role in important policy making - identifying the needs of the community, setting objectives to meet those needs, prioritising between differing demands and allocating resources.
The primary role, however, is to represent the interests of local residents. As such they must provide community guidance and leadership, aiding communication between residents and the local authority.

From West Lothian Council web pages here

Sunday, 22 April 2012

Candidates Views; Allan Henderson, IND - THC Ward 12

I do not believe that the public are involved and neither are our local communities. I believe that most planning matters should be decided locally at ward business meetings on a monthly cycle. Then councillors would really be responsible for their actions. As it is hardly any councillors are even involved in the planning process. Regards Allan.H.

Happy to be quoted as I have already declared this in the chamber. Regards Allan.H.

Sunday Election Candidate round-up

I have now put up as many of the candidates details as I can at this time.  There are a few items still in draft and I hope to iron out the issues as soon as possible and get the posts up - APTSec at fault here, sorry.

I hope that readers have found the chance to read the views of candidates useful so far and thank you to those who took the time to respond to my request and took the opportunity to provide their views.

Given the number of responses that I have received please remember that you will need to click on 'older posts' as well to access all views received from candidates.

Candidates Views; Andrew Baxter, IND - THC Ward 22

Andrew Baxter has left a new comment on your post "Highland Council Elections 2012; progress so far o...":

If you want to get in touch with me (I am standing as an independent in Fort William & Ardnamurchan Ward) you can contact me via my website:

[I contacted MR Baxter on 16 April and sent him some further details on the work of APT]

Candidates Views; Gregor Rimmell, SLD - THC Ward 21

Good afternoon

I am currently seeking Candidates views with respect to public involvement in the planning process - so that APT followers can have more information re which candidates take an active interest in enhancing and supporting community interest in planning matters

I would be most grateful if you would visit the blog and consider making a comment

I received the following from Councillors Rimmell

Cut off! 75 requests for rescinding CNPA impositions are now judged initially by local authority. Not logical, needs revision

Gregor Rimell
Highland Councillor
Badenoch and Strathspey
Tel/fax 01540 673453

Support your views. Would like to see Scottish Gov sort out relationship between Cairngorms National Park Planning and Local Authorities…abandon the fudge and grasp the nettle. Would like to see consistency in how appeals are decided. Object to letter from chief planner re section &%s coming out without consultation. Now section 75 imposed by sed

Yes (in answer to APTSec request to use his emailed views on blog). You might find that the SNP wants to pull back all Park planning to Regions. I am surprised that control mania has not brought the Reporters under review

Candidates Views; Dave Fallows, SNP - THC Ward 21

Dear (Christian name of APTSec) - thank you for your email.

I am concerned, however, that your email circulation list shows a number of current councillors who are not standing, and does not show any of the candidates who are not currently elected. Can you confirm that you have given all the candidates the same opportunity?

Dave Fallows

Thanks for your comprehensive reply, and I am quite happy for you to quote me if that is of assistance.

Now I shall head off to the blog and have a look!

Dave Fallows (current vice chair of South PAC)

[My comprehensive reply had been


Yes I share your concerns; fairness for all.

I intend to make every effort to contact as many candidates as possible and to post up on how the exercise of trying to contact candidates is going, but I am discovering that contacting candidates is not an easy process.

I tried to link to the page on the council web site today that gives a list of candidates but the link was 'broken'.  I will try again tomorrow.

I will put up a post (with lots of links to original web pages) showing that I sent an email to 80 existing councillors of which so many will retire; so many 'bounced back';  so many sent read receipts, and so many replied.  It is almost as much an exercise in how an ordinary member of the public who wants information sets about finding that info.  I hope the barriers to accessing the candidates are not too great that I have to record that I could not complete the exercise.

I am concerned that whilst I have received glossy fliers from the councillors of the SNP and the Lib Dems I have received little info as yet from the other councillors as yet.  As an ordinary member of the public I have no idea how level the playing field is with respect to candidates abilities to sing their own praises as it were but I am conscious that the 3th May is approaching and little is being debated as yet.

I must state that I have no party political axe to grind; I am of working class extraction and that has been my main influence in life but I do not support any political party and what I have experienced through the planning system has made me doubt the whole political thing.

Any assistance would be gratefully received and would you mind if I quoted you as per your concern re reaching the candidates?

Hope this makes sense.

Candidates Views; Donald Boyd, SCP - THC Ward 20

Hi (Christian name of APTSec),

Your request has come back to me from our office and I have forwarded it to our candidates for their individual consideration.

Generally speaking the SCP is in favour of greater transparency in planning processes.  You left last night's meeting in (name of village) before I got going on the planners, and I was sorry not have a chance to speak with you.  Hopefully that can be rectified on Thursday evening if you attend our plenary CC meeting to discuss the non-co-operation of HC and Transport Scotland in the dog's breakfast which is being served up at the western end of the A96 as it impacts on the A9, the Beechwood Campus and the locality.



Candidates Views; Michael Green - THC Ward 19

Good morning (Christian name of APTSec)

Many thanks for your e-mail regarding my views on public involvement in the planning process.

I would be delighted to speak to you and hopefully we can both gain something from the dialogue.

As I am out campaigning during the day, evenings are best for me.

Please let me know when you are free and I will endeavour to phone you.

Best regards


Good morning 

I will attempt to catch up with you over the piece, but as you can imagine thinks are very hectic.

Not only am I campaigning, but I am also a contestant in the Strictly Inverness 2012 charity event ,which is being held on May 10- 13th.

Best regards


[We are currently trying to arrange a mutually convenient date to meet.]

Candidates Views; Bob Wynd, SNP - THC Ward 18

(Christian name of APTSec)

As you know I support wholeheartedly public participation in the planning process, I encourage all Community Councils not only to look at planning applications in their ward but to consider implications of planning applications in adjoining wards which may impact on their area. We all have to live with the outcomes.


Candidates Views; Kate Stephen, SLD - THC Ward 18

APT Blog
My name is Kate Stephen and I am standing as the Lib Dem candidate at the Council elections for Ward 18 – Smithton, Culloden, Balloch, Ardersier, Croy & Cawdor.  Thank you for this opportunity to share my views with you.
My views on democracy:
From my experience as a community development worker / project manager, I am convinced of the need for the involvement of local people in decisions affecting their community and services.  A current buzz word for this is ‘Co-production’ where individuals and communities work alongside the public sector to design and deliver services.
 This can be a challenging process which involves some costs, but in the long run is more cost-effective.  Disagreement is common and conflict can occur when individuals push their own agenda and fail to consider the views and needs of others and when ‘experts’ feel qualified to make decisions by themselves.
Because of the challenges, I think public agencies are sometimes reluctant to work with communities and communities feel unable to trust the public agencies.  I’d like to see more collaboration between communities and public agencies (including the council) in which there is transparency, mutual respect and a degree of trust.  When the threat of cut backs looms in the background, it is difficult but more necessary to align local government decisions with the priorities of the communities they serve.
Whilst I think it is good to keep National politics out of local government, I have taken on the Lib Dem mantle for two reasons:
1)     The Lib Dems fit most closely to my way of thinking on most issues.
2)     I was asked to be the Lib Dem candidate for the Culloden & Ardersier ward.

At a global level, the Arab Spring has challenged some of my faith in democracy.  Although there are many positive implications for the countries involved and lives improved, some individuals may be affected negatively – I’m thinking of women who will have less freedom under a democratically elected fundamentalist Muslim government than they had under a ‘benign’ dictator.  Ultimately, I believe that respect, fairness and tolerance are required whatever political structure, whether democratically elected or not.

My views on planning:
A few years ago, I completed a degree in Sustainable Rural Development through UHI.  This gave me the opportunity to learn and think about some issues pertinent to planning such as the complexity of balancing the needs of business, industry and employment with the natural environment, cultural heritage and community.  Also, common good against individual good.   

Because of the competing interests of stakeholders in the planning process, it is very difficult to reach a consensus that keeps everyone happy.  The emotive nature of the subject (my village/street, the field beside my house, the view from my window) can make disagreement volatile.
I have insufficient knowledge on the subject of planning to speak with any authority but I’d like to make these suggestions:
The processes for planning and the criteria for decisions should be clear.  Explanation of decisions should be full and transparent.  I’d like to see a timeframe for the processing of small scale applications.
The ‘policing’ of planning permission should be reviewed.  It would be good to see a co production approach which included communities, neighbours and developers monitoring sites instead of relying on one council official.
Might it be possible for material planning considerations to also include factors that really matter to people and communities?  I am thinking of effect on view, optimal size of settlements / villages and the amenity value of open and green spaces.  Not that these would necessarily have more weight than other considerations but their inclusion would better reflect the strength of local views and would help protesters to feel that their views had been heard and included in the decision making process.  A definitive list of material considerations with values for weighting might help to make considerations less open to different interpretations and might make the decision making process more transparent. 
I am a novice on planning matters but recognise that there are discrepancies between the priorities of communities and the current planning process.  Although I don’t have answers to resolve the situation, I think there are opportunities for a fresh approach.   I would be keen to hear examples of when things have not worked well and ideas for improvements. 
Kind regards,
T. 07856 761724

Candidates Views; David McGrath, IND - THC Ward 18


I am standing for the Highland council.

Planning as you are aware is one of my concerns. I believe that all planning decisions should be decided at a local level, not as is the present H.C. system where councillors from out with the area are making decisions on our future development plans, with no knowledge of the location or feelings of the resident population where councillors are gagged from speaking out publicly against an application. 

When a major development is refused planing permission, the developer then takes it to a Scottish government planing enquiry, to challenge a local decision and a local plan the developers do not like .Very undemocratic and not good for democracy !

Yours faithfully DAVID MC GRATH { candidate WARD 18 H.C. }

[APTSec Comment - I think it is time to visit the subject of 'Third Party' rights again - which I will very shortly in a forthcoming post]

Candidates Views; John West, IND - THC Ward 16

I would like to push the invernessspring .net as this is a transward movement and with facebook and twitter, hopefully we can get some leverage. If this was achievable we could then ask each candidate if they support the aims of InvernessSpring and advise voters accordingly. 

Candidates views; George Macdonald, Scottish Anti-cuts Coalition - THC Ward 14

As the Scottish Anti Cuts coalition candidate for Inverness West, I am taking this opportunity to reply to your letter re public involvement in the planning  process. As a lifelong socialist it has always been my conviction that democracy is best served when as many members of the population are involved not just in the planning process, but in the entire decision making process at both local and national level.  I believe it is only through open and honest debate that a true democratic society can exist.  Unfortunately, in today's profit-obsessed society, the needs of the majority are often swept aside by the powers that be and as a result, planning applications are often agreed against the wishes of both the people and their elected representatives.   Take for example the scandal surrounding the building of a golf course by Donald Trump in Aberdeenshire against the wishes of the local council, but bulldozed through by a supine Scottish government.  Irony of ironies, now, is it not that Trump is now trying to prevent the development of an offshore wind farm?  Then again, we have the construction  of the Beauly to Denny pylon line, bulldozed through the planning process by the billionaire power companies who were not prepared to look at more environmentally friendly options (underground or submarine cables) but were only concerned with the quick buck mentality which seems to pervade so much of our society.

Of course, as a candidate for Inverness West, one of the main causes for concern currently is the proposed bridge across the River Ness and Caledonian Canal -  project which seems to have been accepted without question by the main political parties, but which is likely to cause major environmental and cultural damage at no discernible benefit to the community as a whole, nor it would seem, to the traffic problems which currently beset Inverness.

If your group exists to challenge the ever-growing influence of big business on the planning process, then I am happy to lend you my support.

yours sincerely

George Macdonald  

Candidates Views; Susan Wallace, SCP - Ward 12

Thank you for your communication.  I have read some of the contents with interest and I will bear them in mind.

If I am elected to The Highland Council, you may wish to make an appointment with me to explain more fully your concerns.

Kind regards,
Susan Wallace

[Candidate Caol and Mallaig]