Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Letter to the Gurn from Brian Lynch - Planning new settlements

This letter was originally published in the Press and Journal but heavily edited to save space. Brian has forwarded the full letter for the benefit of all Gurnites.
Dear Sir:
With reference to the letter in your edition of July 8th from Mr Sutherland under the heading of "Planning New Settlements". I share his concern about the risk that inappropriate development could ruin the unique character of some of Scotland's more attractive Highland towns - not just Stonehaven, but Nairn and a number of others are under threat. I would like to add the following comments.

Major housing developments are being planned across most areas of Scotland, and will impact many existing communities. If readers wish to get an idea of the sheer scale of house construction proposed they should access the Scottish Government's web-site and study the list of 68 projects listed under the "Scottish Sustainable Communities Initiative" (and this list is not exhaustive with respect to planned house building in Scotland: as the list contains sustainable developments only).

Not only the should the numbers cause some serious reflection and questioning, but also the type of "high density" development being mooted as "the answer" in more and more cases. Few people who have ever lived in "high density" housing developments feel a burning desire to repeat the experience-and those who champion high density homes are very unlikely to move into one themselves.

The methodology for projecting future housing needs has recently moved away from the sole use of standard population projections based on factual birth/death data (See General Register for Scotland website) to the incorporation of "aspirational growth" projections for the next 25years. For the first time also we see use of a "high migration variant" projection in the derivation of these aspirations - these "assume higher levels of net in-migration to Scotland". So, for example, for the whole of the Highland we see births in the period 2006-2031 falling, but a population growth aspiration of 17% if the "high migration variant" is used in the calculation.

These "aspirations" might explain the 4,600 new homes (and a population growth of 10,000 people) envisaged for Nairn, because such an expansion surely doesn't stack up against the actual local population trend. What's generating the need for all these homes and, particularly in areas outwith the central belt and oil-zone around Aberdeen, where are the long term employment opportunities coming from?

Even if it is accepted that certain regions of Scotland need to retain and grow their resident populations, there has to be serious analysis of the factors that attract them. People move to the Highlands for quality of life, quality of environment, and quality of access and infrastructure for business and leisure. Building "affordable" housing alone, or in quantity, is not the solution, and is more likely to become part of the problem.

Members of the public have limited time and expertise to comment on these topics- which are at the heart of the future economic wellbeing of Scotland. People need homes, but something is not right with the logic here. Let's get back to a fact based planning methodology and away from an over-dependence on "aspiration" as the leading indicator for driving commercial house building projects. Is there any civic leader or politician who is prepared to challenge this approach-if so let us hear from you?

Brian Lynch (For Nairn Residents Concern Group)


APTSec said...

Brian's final paragraph is spot on!

APTSec said...

We always seem to come back to population and rightly so.

You will note from the Highland Council's response (IC Tuesday this week) to APT's latest press release on the the A96 corridor that they are still defending the 'robust' figures.

APTSec said...

Brian draw's attention to the Scottish Sustainable Communities Initiative (SSCI) in his letter.

The new town proposal by Moray Estates was one of the 11 'exemplars' chosen by individuals (assigned from a panel of experts) who judged the 68 proposals that were put forward under the SSCI.

APTSec has written to local politicians to highlight our concerns regarding the potential use of this SSCI to fastrack developments in advance of the completion of full development plan process.

And no, we do not think that this proposed new town on the A96 is particularly 'sustainable' - whatever that word is now being taken to mean.

Graisg said...

Everyone I talk to is worried about the scale of the proposed developments around Nairn. Folk are prepared to see Nairn grow but don't want to live in an Inverness Mark 2.
Yes our politicians, local and national should reflect our concerns.
Maybe there will have to be some sort of 'concerned citizens' candidates at the next Holyrood elections?

Anonymous said...

Been trying to find out how you become a councillor not just like how you get elected and stuff but what kind of person you should be and what you need to know. Is it easy for a woman and would you get childcare and travel expenses?