Thursday, March 12, 2009

Store wars and intimidation of councillors in the Highlands

Are members of the public getting out of hand in their antipathy towards councillors and officials? The Herald quotes an observer of recent events in Tain.
'He said: "It was obvious that the officials were really quite stunned and shocked, while some of the councillors were quite simply frightened. I was opposed to Tesco getting permission. The traffic and parking issues clearly made it the wrong site. That was the clear local consensus.
"But this was no way to conduct business, no matter what you think about the power of Tesco. It is not easy to argue sensibly when you are being booed and hissed at by members of the public. If decision-making meetings like this are to be held in local communities, there will have to be policing or security." '
The Gurn has commented before about the chasm that appears to be forming between the electorate and the Highland Council and obviously this antipathy will surface at every occasion that arises. We only have to look back to events at the Sainsbury's planning meeting in the Courthouse last year as an example of how many citizens feel about the Highland Council. Anyway read about all the store wars battle zones in the Highlands in this article

3 comments:

nairnbairn said...

This story - and the examples cited in the linked press article - underline a key point. People have to focus on the local authority's plan, not just on the resulting development proposal.

In considering developers' applications, of course councillors (and officials) need to be aware of, and to represent, local sentiment. But they are normally obliged to base their judgments on the criteria and objectives set out in the relevant local/regional development plans. Developers, too, have to submit proposals which meet the requirements the Council lays down.

So if local people have concerns about what is, or might be, proposed for their town (whether supermarkets, roads or housing) and want to influence what happens, the time to lobby councillors most effectively is when regional and local development framework or structure plans are being drafted. Waiting until an individual project comes forward, and then shouting it down, is stable-door-after-horse-has-bolted.

That's why, for example, APT have been challenging the A96 Corridor Plan, ahead of the Tornagrain application (and why Nairn, too, ought to be worried about the A96 Masterplan). And it's why people all around the Moray Firth ought to be thinking hard already about the Highland Council's proposed new Inner Moray Firth plan, which will shape development in the region over the next decade or two.

Anonymous said...

The trouble with that is finding out how to get involved in the first place - councillors are a world unto their own, and attempts to engage the public remain muted.

iRight said...

‘The time to lobby councillors most effectively is when regional and local development framework or structure plans are being drafted'.

I would certainly agree with that observation Nairnbairn.

‘Councillors are a world unto their own, and attempts to engage the public remain muted’.

I’m not sure as to what world you live in anon, but I have always seen our councilors as very engaging with the public, whether it is at a public meetings or just wandering along the High Street.
Case be you have never bumped into any of them, their email and phone details are published on the Highland Council web site. I’m sure they would be happy to hear from you!