Friday, September 20, 2013

Planning victory front page shock waves reverberate from Nairn

This article back to the top - interesting comments coming in

The successful stand made by the people of Nairn on Wednesday  (18/09/23) takes up the front page of the Press and Journal and the entirety of  the paper’s page 5 too. The ramifications of an event that Michael Green has labelled a “pivotal moment”and a “culture change” may spread well beyond Nairn. Last night  there were calls for the Royal Burgh’s Community Councillors (the usual suspects in common parlance) to link up with 
community councils in other parts of the Highlands that have, up to know, suffered a fate similar to Nairn when it comes to planning and other issues of local democracy. The usual suspects and the 60 or so members of the public gathered in the Community and Arts Centre last night were sympathetic to such a move but stated that there were practical difficulties over manpower etc if such a route were taken.

Mention was made of the work done by the Association for Planning Transparency that has made links locally with many community councils, as a potential avenue of further networking.

Whether Nairn CCs actively set up such a network or not there will be those around the Highlands that look to the example yesterday of a victory (for now) against formidable odds and consider their own situation. In the meantime though, the usual suspects have stressed that their priority will be to deal with any reaction from all the players involved in the refused application and other major projects that may come forward soon. West CC’s Brian Stewart stressed that there is a lot of work to be done yet.


Brian Turner said...

We really need an explanation from the Highland Council as to why their planning department keeps allowing developers to change their plans significantly after application.

We are now in the ridiculous situation of having two major housing developments refused because of the incompetence of the planning department.

Original plans for Sandown and South Nairn were not contentious - however, planning officials working with developers allowed the plans to change significantly beyond their original form, to the point that they were impractical.

It would be great if the community councils could demand - and expect - an explanation from the HC chief himself.

APTSec said...

"Original plans for Sandown and South Nairn were not contentious - however, planning officials working with developers allowed the plans to change significantly beyond their original form, to the point that they were impractical."

Not quite sure what you mean Brian?

Anonymous said...

@ Brian Turner

Developers are allowed to change their plans to a certain extent without having to apply for a new planning application

With South Nairn a mistake was made with regard the submissions from our Community Councils. This was freely admitted hence the new hearing of yesterday

Plans for both Sandown and South Nairn were contentious in that objections were made. Planners work with developers, it's within their remit

And with regard to your last point an 'explanation' about what exactly?

I would suggest Brian that the root of both planning issues is that of a planning strategy that openly encourages such development in Nairn. Clearly it is this that needs to be revisited rather than Nairn having to deal with wave after wave of unpopular development.

John Hart said...

If there is something we should be thankful for is Highland Council's incompetence for not dealing with the application and the objections to it, in a professional manner in the first place. Because, had they done so Nairn would have ended up with a development which in any event is not needed in Nairn. (The 400 plus housing number requirement stated by Councillor MacAuley during the PED hearing is for the whole of the Highlands and not Nairn alone).
For as long as the roads and the rail under-pass around this development site remain unchanged then it is utter crass stupidity to engage in development on such a large scale in this area.
It is also inane for a senior Councillor (D. Henry) to suggest that because the plan is not adopted then the section 75 conditions would be lost for ever. How come they were listed in the case of this application? It follows therefore that a whole new raft of section 75 conditions can and will be raised when and if there is a another development proposal.
Thus, the breathing space that has been created HC planning is a god send that Nairn must not squander. Michael Green is to be commended for pressing every commonsense button, that HC Planning, like the three monkeys, are incapable of seeing, hearing or speaking commonsense. Lets not forget that HC Planning, as Mr McLeod told us at the PED, still does not have a protocol in place for developers to fund infrastructure.
The 500 or so photos taken on the protest march each tells its own story. They show the Nairn community cheerfully united in its aim not to tolerate stupidity. I would urge the Gurn to allow the community to have a complete hard copy set of these photos to put before the Reporter when he comes to Nairn to adjudicate on this planning application. We are pretty much assured another visit by the Reporter unless Scotia sees sense (unlike Deveron).
I would suggest to Scotia that they rent the area for the first round 100 dwellings and park 100 mobile homes and accommodate 100 of their own executives and their families to live their for five months. They will then be able to assess the feedback from the wives about how much they didn't enjoy their time trying to get to Sainsburys.
The Nairn community will have to be prepared to put up a robust case against the development, until assurances are given about roads and other associated infrastructure, because THC will be in the business of rolling over in front of Scotia and the Reporter, because it is in the HwLDP. The Nairn community will have to stand up and be counted again.
I should like to take issue with Brian Turner's contention that 'original plans for Sandown and South Nairn were not contentious'. The original Deveron purchase contract for Sandown stated that they were bidding £22.4M to build not less than 350 houses. Clearly, Deveron could not amortise this over bloated bid (we know it was over bloated because all the other developers bid for half that amount for 350 units) and accordingly they submitted a planning application for 550 dwellings. Thus, the planning application was contentious and failed both at the Planning Committee stage and finally at the Appeal. In the case of South Nairn the changes made to the planning application did not make the roads wider, build any more pavements nor widen the underpass below the railway or improve the sewerage or water supply. Thus, the planning application did NOT change materially for it to be acceptable and thus rejected by the PED and we must work together to ensure that the Appeal also fails.

John Hart

John Hart said...

Further to my last an apology. I miss-quoted housing numbers for Nairn/Highland. Nairn has about 357 on the HHR out of which some 60 are on the HHR transfer list. For the whole of the Highlands there js a total of 11,350 on the housing register list, of which 2,580 are on the transfer list.

Joan Noble said...

John is right about the housing list, but where are they all just now? In-houses, but mostly private tenancies which are not assured long-term. So when they are allocated council property they vacate that house. What needs to happen is for the council to buy and recycle private property which people are unable to sell. There are probably enough physical buildings but the wrong ownership and tenancies. It would cost less to buy and do up existing houses that build new. Bus station is prime example of that. Also we need to make sure that locals get these houses or the waiting list never gets any shorter

Anonymous said...

@ Joan Noble

A nice idea (or should that be NICE!)

Changes in government policy over the past 40 or so years have seen the demise of social housing. Private landlords are in effect now the major providers of such accommodation

Very little by the way of new housing stock has been built by councils in recent years, and right to buy has chipped away the number of units, along with a move to shift responsibility over to the likes of housing associations and trusts

Rents in the private sector have rockets way beyond inflation so anyone in need of rented housing is hit very hard. In general these are people who cannot afford a mortgage, and have little chance to save for one due to high outgoings, a major one being housing costs

So we have a society whereby there is a shortage of council owned properties to rent with little money or push to increase housing stock. We also have a layer of society who are increasingly enjoying a substantial income for private rented property, the rent being over and above mortgage costs

As for councils taking over vacant private properties I doubt that the will nor the money is there and issues such as disabled access etc would be quoted. I think it would be quiet costly even though a descent roof over everyone's head is surely a basic human right/need that we should be looking to provide

Brian Turner said...

"Not quite sure what you mean Brian?"

The original Sandown development gained approval for around 200 houses. The developers and planners then increased that to over 500.

Both the South Nairn and Lochloy developments originally included transport links over the railway lines - which disappeared in later revisions.

I can accept planners allowing developers to make small changes - but not very significant changes that would impact the entire development.

I would suggest that development in Nairn is not the problem - it's when development plans change significantly from their original form, to the detriment of the town should they proceed.

Graisg said...

Don't think the Lochloy bridge disappeared off the plan Brian but just didn't happen.
All the South Nairn plans have a bridge too I believe - question is would it just end up not happening like in Lochloy

Nairnac said...

how can the planners allow things like bridges to 'not happen'

Graisg said...

Hi Nairnac, you must have read the reports in the press and online in recent years from the public inquiries in Nairn. Things just seem to get nebulous sometimes when it comes to planning and then you get rooms full of lawyers, experts, lay folk, and tables full of documents etc.
And then sometimes you wonder still if anyone made any sense of it.

APTSec said...

Thanks Brian T

I am not up to speed on the detail of railway links but I can relate to the increase in housing from one Sandown application to another. However there is a little more to the Sandown application in that (and other readers can help here I am sure) the 550 units on the application were also over the numbers specified in the tender process for the sale of the land if I remember correctly - if I am not remembering then someone will keep me right.

As far as development plans go in our area: they seem to be shaped by developer interest in a piece of land or major landowners desire to develop.

John Hart said...

Thanks to Joan Noble for highlighting that most important issue concerning housing lists.

In order to keep the debate on the boil as Nairn prepares for another Appeal circus we must consider demanding that all the utterances and reports created by the so called 'experts' on behalf of the developers and THC on such matters as, traffic, water & sewerage, parking, housing need, noise pollution, roads access, pinch points & safety, be all PEER REVIEWED.

This is a must, in order to line up the arguments against development robustly, and which can only be altered, once actual physical changes are made to the local infrastructure. Remember what an 'expert' is: 'x=the unknown factor' while 'spurt=a drip under pressure' !!

Thus, a peer review is the evaluation of creative work or performance by other people in the same field in order to maintain or enhance the quality of the work or performance in that field.

It is based on the concept that a larger and more diverse group of people will usually find more weaknesses and errors in a work or performance and will be able to make a more impartial evaluation of it than will just the person or group responsible for creating the work or performance.

Peer review utilizes the independence, and in some cases the anonymity, of the reviewers in order to discourage cronyism (i.e., favoritism shown to relatives and friends) and obtain an unbiased evaluation. Typically, the reviewers are not selected from among the close colleagues, relatives or friends of the creator or performer of the work, and potential reviewers are required to disclose of any conflicts of interest.

Peer reviews help maintain and enhance quality both directly by detecting weaknesses and errors in specific works and performance and indirectly by providing a basis for making proper and valid decisions.

We must do this if we are to cure THC culture of its, 'conspiracy of confidence' and its 'group think' mentality, both of which destroyed our once proud Scottish banks.

Effectively, because of THC initial incompetence over the planning application it's re-submission to the PED acted as peer review. The only good thing that THC has achieved in this sorry affair.

This may cost and we may have to consider a fighting fund.
John Hart

Brian Turner said...

Additionally, I thought the South Nairn development was always supposed to be conditional on the development of a bypass first?

A few years ago, the Nairn South proposal clearly showed a "primary distributor road" ringing the development:

This disappears from the most recent version, of course.

I wouldn't expect Scotia Homes to pay for a bypass, but additionally, I can't understand why the HC planning dept would decide the application could go forward without one?

John Hart said...

I hope what follows goes some way to answering Brian Turner’s concerns expressed in his last comments.

In 2007 the Group for Action for Planning Transparency(APT), and in 2010, expressed concerns about the undemocratic railroading of the A96 Corridor Plan, by Highland Council Planning, without meaningful consultation. Put simply, the plan was written “by” and “for” developers. The APT is awaiting a response from THC CEO and Head of Panning. We now know the result of the PED’s peer review on the 18 Sep of the Nairn South planning application and its resultant rejection.

The A96 GCDF, (which was never approved by Council) and thus by “corrupt*” manipulation evolved into a substantial part of the HwLDP, made clear that a Bypass, and major infrastructure improvements, were a paramount requirement, before any further development took place in Nairn. These assurances have been totally ignored, in favour of pushing ahead with private and some affordable housing in an area, that is and will be, further gridlocked because of inadequate infrastructure.

Nairnshire communities cannot have been more explicit in its views. Yet, Highland Council Planners sweep aside these views with complete disdain, relentlessly pushing forward ‘their’ plans, to create a “Costa del Moray”, having made promises to land owners and developers most likely on a golf course, rather than following the planning process in a professional manner.

The default position is, that if Councillors do not approve major developments, then Developers will appeal to the Scottish Government, because the areas in question are allocated for development within the HwLDP. This threat, hangs like a Sword of Damocles over Councillors’ heads, just in case they go against Planning Officers’ advice. Even the Provost of Nairn was silent on the matter; submissive to this threat, and implemented by a job change. What is the point of consultation, if the unanimous Nairnshire community views, are cast aside? The community was driven to organising a protest gathering in Nairn and Inverness in a last ditch attempt to get the message to sink in.

Why are Highland Councillors incapable of listening to the communities, which elect them into office? They are apparently indoctrinated by the Highland Council ‘apparatchik’, ignoring ‘democracy’ in favour of the ‘fear’ and ‘totalitarianism’ wielded by Stuart Black and his Planning Officers. The perception is that in Highland Council, there is no such thing as free will or free thought. That is why we re-named the Nairn station underpass bridge, “Stuart Black’s Spot’.

Finally, some of our Nairn Councillors and a few other Highland Councillors made some headway in upholding ‘democracy’. However, HC officialdom remains accused of "corruption*" as understood by our 18th century forebears, who defined it as: "any perversion of the right order of society, not necessarily for financial motives". These developments are inspired and driven by the planners. Nairn is not against development but it must follow commonsense, taking account of the town’s infrastructure needs first, followed by sensibly programmed housing requirements.

We are unlikely to see a by-pass for Nairn in our life time because the following are/will be a greater priority:

Second Forth Road Bridge
Inverness bypass
A9 link road to A96
A96 diversion for Tornograin
Dualling of the A9
Dualling of the A96 as far as airport
LASTLY: POssible Nairn by-pass

John Hart