“Hold your elected representatives on Highland Council to account!”
That was the strong message to emerge from the Highland Greens’ lively meeting on 5 May for Community Councils in and around Inverness to discuss the Highland Council’s proposals for the A96 Corridor.
The Greens had arranged the meeting because they considered there had been insufficient opportunities for the public, and Community Councils in particular, to consider the fundamental case for and against developing the A96 corridor.
Informative presentations were made by Councillor Ian Ross, Chair of the Highland Council’s Planning, Environment and Development Committee, and Cathy Stafford of Action for Planning and Transparency (APT). Cllr. Ross spoke comprehensively about the Highland Council’s development plans for the whole of Highland, including the Council’s vision for the A96 Corridor. Ms Stafford shed useful light on the complexities and intricacies of the planning process.
Questions and comments from the audience revealed heart-felt concerns about the planning system. In particular residents considered they were being presented with a fait-accompli, with invitations only to ‘tinker at the margins’, and little opportunity to influence big decisions. As a consequence, they saw little point in taking the time to express their views. The discussion around this issue highlighted the key decision-making role of elected Highland Council Ward Councillors in the planning decision-making process.
Other concerns included the loss of agricultural land along the A96 Corridor, and doubts were expressed about the prospects for new jobs along the Corridor on the scale envisaged by the Highland Council.
The meeting also heard details of the Highland Council’s population projections, including significant falls over the next twenty-five years in numbers of people of working age in Sutherland, Caithness and Lochaber.
In her summary of the meeting, Eleanor Scott, co-convenor of the Scottish Green Party, stressed the importance of voting in forthcoming local and national elections.