Wednesday, 31 October 2012

How do you measure misery? Can you ever compensate for it?

The Press and Journal reports today

'...PLANS for a massive hydro scheme in the Highlands’ tourist heartland have won councillors’ backing – despite objectors claiming it would bring years of misery.
SSE Renewables’ £800million project at Coire Glas, above Loch Lochy in the Great Glen, would be the largest in Scotland if it gets final approval.
It would be the first new pump-storage hydro-electric scheme to be built in the UK for 28 years.
For the full story, pick up a copy of today’s Press and Journal or read our digital edition now'

So how do you mitigate against the residents concerns; particularly, according to the article in the paper, the much increased flow of heavy traffic?  
The councillors hoped that the company would employ Highlanders in the jobs that would be created; can the company be made to do that?  How do you monitor the effect on the economy locally, Highland-wide  and nationally?
I would be grateful for your views.

Tuesday, 30 October 2012

I'm off to the NPF3 stakeholder meeting...

...hopefully there will be lots to blog about


I received this email yesterday:

Dear stakeholder,

Please accept this email as confirmation of a place at the Inverness stakeholder event being held at Eden Court Theatre on the 13 November 2012 between 12pm and 2pm.

If you no longer wish to attend or have any questions, please contact the NPF team by email at - .  Alternatively, please do not hesitate to contact me on the number below.

Kind regards


Does anyone out there who cannot make it on the day  want me to raise anything?

You can find more details in the 'Participation Statement' (This document sets out how, when and with whom Ministers will consult in reviewing the NPF. It explains how you can get involved throughout the process and will be updated as further elements of the engagement process emerge. UPDATED OCTOBER 2012 (DUE TO VENUE CHANGE IN INVERNESS ON 13 NOVEMBER, 2012))

'...The seminars will be informal and participative, with independent facilitation.  People will be 
asked to highlight their ‘Main Issues’ and to suggest how they can be addressed in NPF3. ' 

'George Clarke's Amazing Spaces' - second episode tonight

'George Clarke explores the extraordinary world of small builds, where people turn tiny spaces into the most incredible places to live, work and play. He even tries making one of his own.'

I have just caught up with the first episode of this series which I meant to watch last week.

Episode 1 at 4oD here

Series 1 Episode 2

Bolt-hole, Shipping Containers and a Caravan

George meets a teacher creating a bolt-hole in the Lake District by following an increasingly popular trend in the UK of buying his own plot of countryside and doing the building himself. 
George visits a community in Hackney who live and work in customized shipping containers and is astounded to find an architect who has moved his kitchen onto the roof of his house.
In Oxford, Bernard Fontannaz has lifted a 1971 airstream caravan into his back garden to create the ultimate party palace - and it doesn't break any planning laws.
And on his own project, George bids farewell to the nostalgia of his caravan's 70s interior and takes the plunge with a risky but ingenious way of creating extra space for the family.

Next Episode: Tue 30 Oct, 8pm on Channel 4
Page here

Contacting Planning and Building Standards Offices in Inverness and Nairn (30/10/12)

From THC web page Press item here

'...From 31 October 2012 all general Planning or Building Standards telephone enquiries for the Inverness and Nairn area, including updates on the progress of applications or requests for appointments, will be handled, in the first instance, through the Council’s Customer Services Centre, by advisors trained in resolution of Planning and Building Standards queries.  ‘Duty Officers’ for both Planning and Building Standards will also be available to deal with more complex enquiries or to book an appointment with the relevant case officer.  The reception at Kintail House will remain open but an appointment should be made in advance if anyone wishes to meet with a member of the team.

Councillor Thomas Prag Chairman of The Highland Council’s Planning, Environment and Development Committee said: “Research has shown that the majority of first time enquiries to planning and building standards offices are simple requests for forms, support in the application process or progress updates on pending applications.  We think it makes more sense to deal with these via the Customer Services Network, leaving the specialists to focus on current casework so that we can move those on as quickly as possible.”

For current and pending cases, agents and customers should continue to contact the relevant case officer directly and the Council will write to agents and customers again around 31 October with details of direct dials for all the relevant officers.  To book an appointment or contact Planning and Building Standards people should now call 01349 886608.'

Urban Realm reports 'Projected Aberdeen bypass costs almost double to £653m'

Anyone good at this sort of maths?  

'...Plans to construct the Aberdeen bypass, recently approved by the Supreme Court, has hit a fresh stumbling block with news that the projected bill for the 28 mile route has nearly doubled from £347m in 2008 to £653m today.

Transport Minister Keith Brown has blamed a succession of delays incurred by a tortuous legal process, brought about by repeated legal challenges mounted by a campaign group fighting against the plans, has led to the ‘substantial increase’.

Outlining the basis for the price hike Brown told MSP's it reflected "scope changes, the inclusion of standard risk costs and rebasing to 2012 prices", with inflation alone contributing £230m to the increase.'

How can 4 years inflation add up to £230m?

original item here

Environment: Commission to streamline rules on environmental impact assessments of projects

Brussels, 26 October 2012

'The European Commission today outlined new proposals to streamline legislation on environmental impact assessments. The proposals are intended to lighten administrative burdens and make it easier to assess the potential impacts of major projects, without weakening existing environmental safeguards. Current levels of environmental protection will be strengthened, and businesses should enjoy a more harmonised regulatory framework...


The aim of the EIA Directive is to ensure that projects which are likely to have a significant effect on the environment are adequately assessed before they are approved. Hence, before any decision is taken to allow such a project to proceed, the possible impacts it may have on the environment (both from its construction or operation) are identified and assessed. Developers can then adjust projects to minimise negative impacts before they actually occur, or the competent authorities can incorporate measures to avoid, reduce or compensate environmental impacts into the project approval.
The Directive also ensures early public participation in the environmental decision-making procedures. In particular, members of the public concerned must be given the possibility to comment while all options are still open to the competent authority, i.e. before a final decision is taken on the request for development. When approving a project, the competent authority is required to inform the public, including on the measures envisaged to avoid, reduce or compensate environmental impacts.
For more information:

Local MP convenes first infrastructure forum meeting

e Planning reports:

'Chief executive to the Treasury Danny Alexander has convened the first meeting of a new forum intended to push forward major infrastructure projects...

...Alexander announced the formation of the forum at the Liberal Democrat party conference in September. Speaking at time he said the forum would "ensure government and industry work together to deliver the infrastructure we need".

What about the Lib Dems in Scotland?

Click here to find our what I came up with when I searched for 'infrastructure' on the SLD web site 

Wales - Planning service delivery in areas of outstanding natural beauty

'Planning' e mag reports:

'A study carried out for the Welsh government into planning service delivery in areas of outstanding natural beauty (AONBs) and national parks has called for more national reporting on planning performance within the statutory designated landscapes...

...The study also says there needs to be and "improved perception of planning in statutory designated landscapes". It says: "There is a long held perception that planning within statutory designated landscapes stands in the way of community and business development. Overcoming this perception requires a range of focused activities: the preparation of Sustainable Development Strategies for individual statutory designated landscapes; setting up of Planning Advisory Groups to advise on planning delivery; setting targets for the approval of commercial developments; and developing collaborative approaches with local communities planning the future of their area."

'Urban Realm' covers 'Trump Ad'

'Combative tycoon Donald Trump has ramped up his efforts to halt development of an offshore windfarm off the Aberdeenshire coast with an attack on ‘ugly, inefficient, bird-killing, Chinese turbines’.'

Click here for full details and copy of the Ad

Monday, 29 October 2012

"True democracy depends on clear communication"

Thanks to the blogger at 'Carmarthen Planning Problems and More' for putting me on to this VERY interesting programme via her post;

BBC Radio; Eye On Wales - 'The Language of Spin'

The programme is a mere half hour and definitely worth a listen but hurry you only have SIX days left to hear it.  

...Presenter Felicity Evans takes a personal look at the language of spin and obfuscation, using George Orwell's essay on Politics and the English Language as her starting point...she talks to politicians and pundits about how our politics is conducted and reported.  Does - as Orwell felt back in 1946 - the language used on all sides still tend to “obscure and confuse and ultimately mislead”?

The programme contains input from, amongst others, Margaret Heffernan and contains references to her book, "Wilful Blindness' which examines how the use:

"...of language in the workplace can be used to stop ordinary people facing things that should be obvious..."

I believe Ms Heffernan says

"Orwell understood that...if you mess with the language you mess with people's thinking.  If you misuse language you stop people being able to think some contexts I often wonder if that is the point."

Other quotes from the programme:

"...managerial language which has infected government..."

"The life sucking jargon of the corporate world"

"True democracy depends on clear communications"

There is also a very interesting item on the Carmarthen  blog regarding the saga of the treatment of visitors attending the public gallery during council meetings.

Leader's letter in Western Mail - a response to my letter