The Scottish Green Party has asked the Scottish Government to declare planning permission for Inverness’s new town null and void.
Donnie MacLeod, Highlands and Islands prospective candidate for the Scottish Greens, has written to Planning Minister, Stewart Stevenson, urging him to declare the basis for The Highland Council’s hearing on the 15th of September, which gave the go-ahead to the Stratton development, as unsound, as it was taken while the Highland-wide Local Development Plan had yet to be finalised. The Council’s decision was taken only nine days before the planned launch on 24 September of the final HwLDP public consultation.
“Our concern is that the Hearing was held while the Highland-wide Development Plan process was, and is, still underway. The area covered by the proposed development is 78·8 hectares of which over 75% is green wedge land.
“Public funds to be invested in this development, estimated in 2007 to be over £95million for development of the whole A96 corridor, will be funds unavailable for investment elsewhere in the Highlands.
“The Greens raised concerns about developing the A96 corridor, in response to the publication of the Council’s ‘Main Issues’ report in August 2009, yet all concerns have now clearly been swept aside. Paradoxically, the Council has ruled out consideration of a development of similar scale at Tornagrain, a few miles east of Stratton, before completion of the Highland wide Local Development Plan.
“We are extremely disappointed by the Council’s official’s recommendation that councillors approve the Stratton application, given the ongoing Highland-wide Local Development Plan process.
“The Council’s action shows complete disregard for the Scottish Government’s new planning system and makes a nonsense of the final consultation process. We consider the issue serious enough for the planning decision to be declared null and void.”
Our letter to the Scottish Government:
HIGHLANDS AND ISLANDS BRANCH OF THE SCOTTISH GREEN PARTY
Mr Stewart Stevenson
Minister for Transport, Infrastructure and Climate Change
St. Andrew’s House
21 September 2010
Dear Mr Stevenson
TOWN AND COUNTRY PLANNING (SCOTLAND) ACT 1997
AS AMENDED BY THE PLANNING ETC.(SCOTLAND ACT) 2006
SPECIAL MEETING OF THE HIGHLAND COUNCIL – 15 SEPTEMBER 2010
LAND AT STRATTON AND EAST SEAFIELD, INVERNESS, NEW TOWN COMPRISING TOWN CENTRE, HOUSING AND COMMERCIAL DEVELOPMENT
I am writing on behalf of my Party to request that you investigate The Highland Council’s recent (5 Sept. 2010) Hearing to consider the above-mentioned application, and – in the light of that investigation – to revoke the Council’s justification for holding the meeting at this time. The effect of such action would be to withdraw the outline planning permission granted at the meeting.
Our concern is that the Hearing was held while the Highland-Wide Development Plan (HWDP) process was, and is, still underway. This seems to us to directly contravene the spirit, if not the ‘letter of the law’ of the Scottish Government’s requirements covering local authorities’ duties for drawing up development plans. Were the application for a small-scale development, we would have no objection to it being considered ‘now’. But the area covered by the proposed development is vast: 78.8 hectares. Indeed, the development is classified as a ‘new town’. Its scale may well have significant implications for employment and population in the rest of the Highlands, within and outwith Inverness itself.
For example, in terms of public and private investment, estimates taken from The Highland Council’s September 2007 ‘A96 Corridor Growth Framework’ document show that £95.33 million of public funds is envisaged for investment in the whole A96 corridor, and £230.9 million from the private sector. For East Inverness itself, much of which area is covered by this application, the combined public and private investment estimate amounts to £71.24 million. These are colossal sums and, if this development goes ahead, are unlikely to be available for investment elsewhere in the Highlands.
The Council’s action effectively negates any further discussion of East Inverness in the HWDP context. This, despite the fact that the Council’s ‘Main Issues’ report (August 2009) – which comprised its initial HWDP proposals – included the Council’s specific suggestions for developing the East Inverness area and invited the public’s comments on these. Our response to the report contained our own ideas for East Inverness. Our views, and those of others who responded, have now been cast aside by the Council’s action, and we cannot see how the Council can now include any meaningful proposals for East Inverness in its about-to-be-published (24 September 2010?) final HWDP proposals – nor ignore the likely Highland-wide impact of granting this application in the publication.
So, because of the scale – and the likely wide-spread impact of this proposed development (which was originally submitted to The Highland Council in April 2009), it seemed to us reasonable to expect The Highland Council to consider the application only after the HWDP had been finalised. But no! The Council’s justification for considering the application in advance of the HWDP’s settlement appears to be because it had ‘a measure of existing local plan support’ – as decided at the Council’s Planning, Environment and Development Committee’s meeting on 11 August 2010. In fact, the Official’s report to the Council’s 5 Sept. 2010 meeting says, at para 6.4, that ‘most of the land is classified as ‘green wedge’. It has been reported to us that this green wedge proportion exceeds 75% of the total area. Further more, the remaining area includes ranges of farm buildings. It seems to us extreme and, frankly, unacceptable for The Highland Council to seek to advance consideration of a planning application on this scale on such tenuous grounds.
Furthermore, the Council has specifically ruled out consideration of the Tornagrain application (located a few miles further East, near Inverness airport) before the HWDP’s completion, despite that application being of a similar magnitude and composition to this Stratton and East Seafield one. The only difference we can discern between the two applications, in terms of whether to consider them now, is the above mentioned ‘measure of local plan support’ for the Stratton and East Seafield one.
I must add that we are extremely disappointed by the Council Official’s recommendation that Councillors approve the application, given the ongoing HWDP process and the questionable justification for taking the application in advance of this process’s completion, and the Council’s declared non-consideration of the Tornagrain application.
To conclude, we consider that the Council’s action in staging this Hearing shows complete disregard for (at least) the aims of the Scottish Government’s new planning system in Scotland, and also makes a nonsense of the Council’s forthcoming final consultation of its HWDP proposals when a sizeable planning application with wide-ranging impacts has already been agreed.
May I therefore invite you to consider our representations, and let us know what action you intend to take as a consequence. For our part, we consider the issue serious enough for the (basis for staging the) Hearing to be deemed unsound, and therefore for the planning decision to be declared null and void.
I look forward to hearing from you.
I am copying this letter to Sir Peter Housden and Patrick Harvie MSP.
Highlands and Islands Green Party