Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Planning applications in Nairnshire – why can’t the Community Councils decide instead of Highland Council?

This observer remembers the sight of the Inverness Councillors debussing at the Lodgehill Clinic for a site visit to help them determine the application for flats/over-development on that particular site. They had a pow-wow and then got back on the bus to Inverness where it was all decided. Why do we need folk from Inverness and other parts of the Highlands to decide the fate of planning applications in Nairn? Aren’t we worthy, as a community, of the right to make our own minds up? You might think things are bad at the moment but they could soon get much worse – read the article on page 4 of the Nairnshire and the editorial by Iain Bain.

Now a potential solution – it might happen if citizens were prepared to agitate enough. Why can’t the community councils decide the fate of all planning applications in Nairnshire? That way we could ensure that we get the kind of development that we want and not what the Highland Council or developers or even for that matter, what the Scottish Government want. The town will have at least 27 community councillors across River, Suburban and West after the dust settles next month. The rural councils will have quite a few too, so why couldn’t each Community Council across Nairnshire appoint a couple of reps to a Nairnshire Planning Committee? The reps would be mandated to vote on each application as per the instructions of their council after consulting their electorate. Does that make sense? A Community Councillor’s salary is £0 per annum so no cost there – yes there is the cost of planning officials but they are full-time employees already aren’t they

What do you think gurnites? What do you think Sandy?


CCs are mainly NOT elected said...

It should ne obvious to youu Des. Local Authority councillors are democratically elected. Community council members (like you) are appointed. Only when there are too many.nominations, does a postal ballot take place in the CC area.
So councillors are a public post, democratically elected by registered voters in a wide area. CCs are mostly appointed individuals, who have no public backing or democratic election and are in essence a residents group offering limited opinion.

Deep cut said...

The current now long standing cuts for local councils under the council tax freeze will see an increasing number of jobs centralised, for us that means Inverness.

The undercurrent of this is also power as Inverness becomes a central authority handing out dictates to the likes of Nairn, with local input just about stripped away

I suspect any local movements that try and change this swing will be met with monitory arguments, difficult to argue against this in the current economic climate.

I suspect that elected councillors legally have responsibility that CC's do not. A nice idea though to allow CC's to have a greater role in local planning

Graisg said...

Last time round there were enough candidates to hold an election in River CC area. Highland Council upped the limit of candidates to have an election - in fact they just about doubled it from 6 to 11. Yes there were only 9 who put themselves forward for River but if the old rules had been in place there would have been an election. It is a shame there wasn't. I'd still like to see a single CC across Nairn, I'm sure that would attract enough candidates for an election but that's another matter.

Back it 2007 Graham Marsden had 535 first preference votes on the PR system used by Highland Council. Laurie had 669. All the Candidates for Nairn River CC had more votes than Grahm in their election in 2009:

Carol Clark 621 votes
Thomas Hogg 681 votes
Bill Murdoch 579 votes
Jeanne Tolmie 679 votes
Stephanie Whittaker 588 votes

Anonymous said...

It's been shown that CCs are by I large a group of local residents, who have no expert knowledge or experience of the item subject to the planning application. There are many instances of an applicant having to waste time with a CCs uninformed questions, and biased opinion due to them being led imto an opinion by one or two biased individuals.
Planning officers are professionals, and as professionals act in such a manner, while being fully familiar with planning law. Councillors are elected to public office and as such have similar rules and professional standards they must adhere to. The sad fact is a lot of CCs don't act in a professional or informed manner.
As a resident, I for one would wish a combination of professionals and elected public officials to make planning decisions, rather than a small group of self originated individuals
I'm sorry Des as a CC member you will not agree, and this is not intended as a slight against your character, but we should have professionals making planning decisions and not individuals doing it as part of a hobby in their evenings.

Graisg said...

morning anon, thanks for the comments. I don't take them at all as a personal attack. One of the purposes of this blog is to encourage debate and you make interesting points. I just wonder if you have any suggestions as to how we might get back more local control over planning applications in Nairnshire or maybe you are happy with the present situation and the further centralisation coming up in January?

The new code of conduct for Community Councils in the Highlands does set standards for members, yes they should represent the the public and not push their own hobby-horses.
Interesting points too in a Courier editorial today - "The relevance of Community Councils". Not enough time here to quote from it but hopefully it will be online soon. Again an interesting contribution from a Highland Councillor on the APT blog:
"As you know, planning decisions should be made on planning grounds. I never knew yet any planning decision that pleased everyone. It is therefore difficult to represent all of the people all of the time."
I think you could certainly cite the bus station example there.

I wonder what you think of the proposal voted through yesterday to reduce the number of planning areas in the Highlands from 3 to 2.
According to the P&J it was passed with 22 votes for, 11 against and 26 abstensions.