Friday, 8 June 2012

I take issue with Councillor Prag

From HC press release

Residents in the Inner Moray Firth area are reminded that there is just under four  weeks left to let The Highland Council’s Planning and Development Service know how they  would like to see their community develop over the next 20 years.

The document out for consultation is called the Inner Moray Firth Local Development Plan Main Issues Report and it sets out a number of initial options for where development should and should not occur within the Inner Moray Firth area which is from Fort Augustus in the South to Tain in the North and Auldearn in the East and to Garve in the West including the main settlements of Inverness, Nairn and Dingwall. The Main Issues Report looks at how a number of other issues affecting the area can be addressed.

Councillor Thomas Prag, Chair of Planning, Environment and Development Committee, said: “People often tell us that they feel powerless in the planning process. Wwell here is a real opportunity for them to have a say in how their community might develop in the next 20 years. So much is still in the melting pot at this stage and if folk don’t take the chance to chip in on the consultation process now they may not get the chance again for some time. It’s where we live and work and play – it’s up to us to help shape it for the future.”

The Main Issues Report is available to read at online at  It is also available at every public library, Council Service Points and area Planning & Building Standards office within the Inner Moray Firth area and at Council Headquarters, Glenurquhart Road, Inverness.

Well Councillor Prag, many of us have worked really hard to understand the subject of planning  over the last several years and have contributed to numerous consultations but I for one still feel excluded.  

I have lost faith in the development plan process.  It will take all the effort I can summon to get myself to put pen to paper in response to this plan over the next few weeks.   

Thursday, 7 June 2012

The Kindness of Strangers

Over the years APT has welcomed and been grateful for advice, information and support from a range of groups and individuals. 

Only recently I was cheered up by the generosity of academic Peter Joyce*, who not only agreed to my quoting from (my not quite the latest copy of) his book 'Politics'  (Hodder and Stoughton, 'Teach Yourself'), but also sent me a copy of the latest version now called 'Understand Politics' (Link here includes a book preview but of course details of other stockists can be found on line).

I hope to post some items shortly, probably starting with an item to provide some insight into  'Pressure Groups' and perhaps how APT has fared in its role as a 'promotional group' over the last few years.

(* Principal Lecturer at Manchester Metropolitan University)

Tuesday, 5 June 2012

Reporter says,"I dismiss the appeal and refuse planning permission in principle."

It would seem to me that the Reporter was not prepared to give the appellants in this case the degree of freedom to develop that they were hoping for...


The Reporter stated in the Decision Notice:

5. Section 25 of the Planning Act requires me to determine the appeal in accordance  with the development plan, unless material considerations indicate  otherwise.  Since the  council determined the planning application, the development plan has changed.  I consider that in making my decision I should consider the provisions of the current development  plan.  There was no dispute that this now consists of the Highland wide Local Development Plan (adopted April 2012) and the Inverness Local Plan (adopted March 2006).

(There then followed the Reporter's Reasoning - Decision Notice at  link above)

44. For the reasons set out above, I conclude that the appeal proposal does not comply with the policy and objectives of the development plan.  Based on the information before me, I do not consider that there are any material considerations that are so compelling as to  set aside the provisions of the development plan in this instance

The Courier quoted Mr Sutherland of Inverness Estates - an Appellant - as saying:

"We are very disappointed that planning dogma has overridden a project to create almost 400 real jobs at a time when the city is crying out for them. The Scottish Government should be focusing on creating employment rather than their reporter failing to respond to the important issues relating to this site and letting the restaurant complex proceed. It was well recognmised that the local plan referred to was 10 years out of date and time has moved on.

My view - 

I understand that the Planning System is there to balance competing and conflicting demands.  

Within the system a Reporter is engaged to exercise planning judgement and those making an appeal may or may not agree with this judgement.  It is up to all parties taking part to set out their stall of evidence so that the Reporter has the best quality of information upon which to make a decision.

The Reporter in this case seemed to me to be faced with a  degree of uncertainty in terms of the evidence that had been placed (or not placed) before him by the parties involved in the appeal.  For example he notes that:

2. It would appear that the appellant’s current intention is to develop the site as shown  on the site layout plan and  in the transport assessment.  Nonetheless, the planning 
permission would only be for this form of development if it were specified as such in any 
planning conditions. 

3. The proposal is therefore potentially for a much broader range of uses and I consider  that needs to be taken into account when assessing the appeal. 

13. I accept that it is a possible scenario  that there are no suitable alternative sites elsewhere for a mixed use development, including class 3 uses.  Also, that as the class 3 
uses have been promoted because of the close relationship with the other uses at the retail  park (including commercial leisure), the appeal site may be appropriate.  However, I have  been provided with insufficient information to demonstrate this is the case at the moment.

18. In relation to Policy 40, I consider that there is insufficient information to demonstrate 
that there are no suitable sequentially preferable sites or that there is an acceptable impact 
on the city centre or other centres.

33. I consider that there was limited  design information before me.  The appeal documents described the layout plan as illustrative and only showed uses, building 

footprints and road layout.  It did not show massing or provide any analysis as to how the  proposal could create a sense of place or show how the proposal could integrate visually and functionally with existing and proposed development on adjoining land.  

I disagree with the appellant that the submitted information is adequate and that there would be no need 

for a master plan.  I consider it is important that overall design principles be established in case the development commences over a longer  period or takes a different form to that currently envisaged.