Thursday, March 04, 2010

Yesterday (Wednesday) at the Sandown Inquiry

First let's turn once again to the Press & Journal coverage:
'Disbelief over Nairn traffic claim
Residents incredulous after transport consultant says town doesn’t have gridlock problem
By iain ramage
Published: 04/03/2010
Nairn residents attending a major planning inquiry sat in disbelief yesterday when told by a transport consultant that the holiday and commuter town which is bisected by the A96 had no gridlock problem.
About 30 locals attending the hearing at Nairn Community Centre gasped and laughed when the consultant delivered traffic impact information based on research done in winter.
His company was commissioned by developer Deveron Highland, which has appealed Highland councillors’ rejection of its proposals for building 550 homes, a business park, shops and leisure facilities at Sandown on the west side of Nairn.
Significantly though Deveron once again quoted Highland Council to back up their case, stating that Highland Council officials don't beleive there is a gridlock situation. Now just how are things going at the Inquiry? A comment from Nairnbairn last night on a previous thread is just as relevant here.
'This is shaping up into a David and Goliath story. Deveron Highland have assembled a formidable team of - no doubt very expensive - legal, planning and technical experts to defend and justify their development plans. Their lawyers are very skilfully playing the Perry Mason game of using procedural arguments to prevent certain lines of questioning.The Highland Council are in this confrontation with one hand tied behind their backs. Sandy has to defend and uphold the Planning Committee decision to refuse Deveron's application. But his legal and planning team are handicapped because the Council's own planning officials supported, assisted and helped to shape the Deveron plan. So whenever anyone queries the design, the plans, or the infrastructure issues like roads and water, the Deveron team are able to duck the questions and justify their plans by pointing out that council or agency officials had acquiesced. That leaves the local Nairn Residents' Group - a team of dedicated and concerned citizens with very little experience of such inquiries - as the main defenders of Sandy's recommendation to refuse the decision, and as representatives of the interests of the local townsfolk. A few public-spirited individuals have added their voices on certain points. But it is a pretty unequal contest. It would be good to see the Reporters take a more proactive role in ensuring, in their chairing of the Inquiry, that the genuine concerns of ordinary citizens are properly heard, and not suppressed by clever lawyers using procedural tactics to protect Deveron from the awkward questions.'
You have to hand it to the Deveron team, they are an accomplished team of professionals and are exploiting all the gaps on the park. One could be forgiven for wondering if have we been let down by the role of Highland Council professionals in the whole sorry story that has led to this inquiry.
The Gurnmeister attended the Inquiry in the afternoon when the traffic expert was just finishing his session at the witness table. Next on for Deveron was Hazel Sears a planning consultant. Karen Lyons of Highland Council had about an hour to question her before the inquiry finished for the day. Mrs Sears had competent answers for all that was put before her, lets hope the Reporter finds some holes in them though. Take the local plan for example. Mrs Lyons asked Mrs Sears if the rise in numbers from the local plan (110) to Deveron's 550 was a significant change. Mrs Sears agreed with that but there were the 'buts' and lots of 'buts' too.
Here's just a taste of them from Mrs Sears's precognition:
'6.6 In terms of planning policy it is accepted that the housing numbers and larger developed areas do not strictly accord with Policy S6 27 (b) or the indicative layout for Sandown in the Local plan. However the Local Plan indicates that a Development Brief would be prepared for the site. You would expect such a brief to be more detailed in its requirements.
6.7 The Council did produce a Brief fo the site (CD-C03) and this shows a greater amount the allocated site to be used for housing purposes. It also specifies densities for different types of housing within the site.
6.8 In effect the indicative layout in the Local Plan has been superseeded by the Brief and indeed the current approach to design supported and endorsed by Government requirements and advice, which are now being embraced by Highland Council. This is correctly recognised in the Planning Officer's report.
6.9 The Professional Planning Offficer's opinion in his Report to Committee also suggests that an increase in the number of houses over the Local Plan figure would be acceptable. The Planning Officer also states that 'the key design concept of the higher density area makes a welcome effort to depart from conventional suburban form and layout.' Indeed initial discussion with planning officers indicated a strong desire for the authority to move on from bland recent developments, which often rely, to a great extent on the private car.'
There's plenty more where that came from. Well Gurnites, anyone else think there's too much influence in the hands of planners and developers when it comes to Nairn? Time for a single Royal Burgh of Nairn Community Council to redress the balance? See article below.

1 comment:

growtosow said...

with regards too gridlock perhaps a trip too specsavers would be in order the road is ok for a horse and cart not much else and the list goes on and on.