Saturday, September 21, 2013

What on earth is the IMFLDP and why is it worth paying serious attention to it?

Gurnmeister opinion

Planning is a complicated subject, it is clouded in the language of officialdom and reports that are capable of giving the average citizen a headache after two or three paragraphs. It can seem impenetrable but it affects our lives and at many times in recent years it has upset large sections of the local community. It finally led to people taking to the streets earlier this week to express their outrage at how they felt they had been badly treated by the system.

We are about to be consulted on planning again over a six week period this time on the IMFLDP – The Inner Moray Firth Development Plan. This observer will now try and talk about this a little but it is very complicated. Gurnites will know that there is a strong school of thought in Nairnshire that you get consulted and then you get what officialdom wants. The outcome of consultation over the  HwLDP appeared to be like that to many – confusing isn’t it – that’s the Highland wide Development Plan. The application at South Nairn was in the  HwLDP and thus enshrined and hard to dislodge. This video interview with Alastair Noble might help a little to enlighten readers a little to the background of the  HwLDP. It really seems that the system is so complicated that you almost have to do a course to bring yourself up to speed to even begin to seriously consider it and how we arrived where we are today with the situation we have in Nairn. Obviously in the longer term there must be serious questions here for politicians in the landscape of whatever Scotland that comes after the referendum next year. Do we really have to go on like this with such a system? Here’s what our correspondent APT Sec says:

"I am really concerned that Highland have now made planning so complicated that the ordinary person simply turns off.  And, it seems to me, there should not be a situation where the Government and Planning Authorities provide only basic knowledge of the planning system but the reality is that you need far more than that to even attempt to make your voice heard effectively."

Now the HwLDP is already done and dusted and we now have more local consultation under this IMFLDP. But how will what has gone through on the big boy HwLDP affect the consultation of the IMFLDP? The APT Sec is pretty good at going through all this stuff and she is slightly concerned and has spotted something in the report that went before the Council on Weds for the item on the consultation (that was the same meeting where the South Nairn application was turned down). Here is the extract she highlights and I warn you we are going into planning speak now:

‘…4.3 The HwLDP includes some development sites (and corresponding text) that lie within the Inner Moray Firth (IMF) area. These sites have been tested through an independent Examination and so the principle of development has been accepted. The vast majority of these sites have been “rolled forward” into the Proposed Plan with little or no change. It is therefore intended that any Proposed Plan content that was previously approved through the HwLDP should not be reexamined through the IMFLDP process. At the Examination stage of the plan we will ask Reporters to acknowledge that the principle of development of these sites has already been accepted, and that only the Plan content that was not previously approved through the HwLDP should be subject to Examination through the IMFLDP process. Minor changes such as the mix of uses or phasing would be open to comment. Some of the same sites now have an extant planning permission, for example at Delnies, Tornagrain and Stratton. It is intended to take a similar approach to these sites.”

APTSec goes on to ask herself and the Gurn: “Have the Councillors of the PEDC now effectively agreed to close off any further discussion on what is set out on page 51-58 inclusive of the  HwLDP as far as Nairn is concerned with the exception of ‘minor changes’?”
Another acronym there “PEDC” (Planning, Environment and Development Committee). Our correspondent then asks: “Clarification is needed surely?  People are surely entitled to an explanation as to what the implications of this would mean?  How would their consultation comments be regarded; would some be disregarded?  Will this be fully explained upfront?”

This observer wonders too how it will all work. Will we get a map showing us the sacrosanct parts of the Big Boy HwLDP where comment is perhaps of no use and the areas where our input can still be of some value.  How does the community express what it considers acceptable when it comes to how Nairn develops? Are too many avenues of debate now sealed up with No Entry signs by the Big Boy  HwLDP?

You can see debate on this matter from earlier this week at the Highland Council on this webcast on the Highland Council site at 2 hours 36 minutes. 
How will the consultation work? Here’s a couple of paragraphs from the Council’s own report (Liz pointed the Gurn in the direction of these two paragraphs, she is concerned about the six week time frame and thinks it should be longer). See other comment from Liz in this Gurn article. 

“5.1 The Proposed Plan approved by Committee will represent the settled view of the Council for guiding future development in the Inner Moray Firth area. However, the Proposed Plan will be subject to full public consultation. The Proposed Plan has been designed as an interactive document which is easy to navigate and make comments on. An online comments form has been designed to make it easy for users to submit their comments to the Council and to help streamline the consultation process. An updated Environmental Report will be subject to consultation alongside the Proposed Plan.

5.2 Previous stages in the preparation of the Plan have included extensive public consultation and publicity. The Proposed Plan consultation is proposed to last for 6 weeks. It is an important stage as it is likely to be the last opportunity for people to make comments that can be considered in the subsequent Examination process. During the consultation officers will attend Ward Forums to inform the public of the opportunity to comment and to explain the next stages in the plan process. Social media, press adverts and a radio campaign will help to raise awareness of the consultation. The Council is also required to write to every property within a 20 metre distance of the boundary of any site allocated in the Proposed Plan to inform them that the Council proposes to allocate the site for development. These letters will be accompanied by a map of the relevant area or settlement with details of how they can make comments on the proposed plan.”

Did you get this far? Well done! So there it is Gurnites, worth bearing in mind and no doubt the usual suspects will be debating this at their meetings over the next few weeks.

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