Tuesday, October 15, 2013

For the many serious students of Nairn planning matters - coming soon - IMFLDP consultatnt

Gurnites will recall that the South Nairn application should have gone through because it was in the Highland wide Local Development plan (HwLDP) but an error by the planners led to a sequence of events that ended in that application being refused last month. It was an outcome that Colin MacAulay has since described as ‘seismic’. Now does that seismic event mean that we have a chance of moving towards a scenario for Nairn’s planning future that may be more in line with what the usual suspects have been calling for rather than the vision of planners?

There is another consultation coming up next month that will be very important for the future of Nairn, that is to say the Inner Moray Firth Local Development Plan. Will the Highland Council listen to the concerns that have been expressed by many local residents over recent years? The proof of the pudding will be in the forthcoming IMFLD consultation.

Here at the Gurn we wondered how much this consultation would centre on the list of documents published in response to the Highland Council’s call for sites. The responses by landowners etc in the Nairn area are listed on this web page here. We asked the Highland Council some questions and promptly received a reply from a spokesperson; they began with the following information:

“There wasn’t a Call for Sites stage for the HwLDP. There was one for the IMFLDP and all the responses are on the Council’s website. All sites close to or within larger settlements (but not housing in the countryside proposals) were included in the Plan’s first official draft -  “The Main Issues Report” - regardless of whether planning officials thought they had planning merit or not. The ones we thought had merit were shown as preferred. The ones we thought did not were shown as non preferred. There was one exception, a Call for Sites settlement suggestion was rejected at this initial stage for a 1,000 house new community proposal at Clephanton which was not regarded as suitable because of the lack of existing or planned infrastructure at this location and the existence of an already allocated alternative at Tornagrain.”

To the question:” Is comment on individual responses now time barred or can Nairnshire residents still submit specific comment in regard to these responses as part of the current consultation?” came the following reply:

“Comments can still be lodged (from 1 November 2013 to 13 December 2013) on the sites that have been retained within the latest stage of the Plan – the Proposed Plan (available via http://www.highland.gov.uk/yourenvironment/planning/developmentplans/imfldp.htm ). Comments of support for the Plan content can also be lodged or objections to the non inclusion of sites or policies.

We were also interested in how the Council handles a site submitted that has implications for one of its own members and asked another question: “There is one response that has led to Cllr Liz MacDonald being unable to attend some planning meetings due to a protocol that the Highland Council has in regard to Councillors interests. Are any other protocols in place in regard to the way the response from Derek MacDonald will be determined by officials and councillors?

To which the Council said: “The MacDonalds’ site was preferred at Main Issues Report and retained in the Proposed Plan for the reasons stated in the report and its appendices to PED Committee on 18 September 2013. Cllr MacDonald has declared an interest at every meeting at which the Plan’s content has been debated and decided. Should any party object to the retention of the MacDonald’s site (or any other site) then these comments will be passed to a Scottish Government appointed Reporter for decision via the Plan’s Examination (public local inquiry) process."

So after consideration it seems the IMFLDP could go to a public local inquiry. The Community Councils will shortly be discussing the forthcoming consultation and they will have much to debate before they submit their thoughts, either separately or as a joint response.. Whether their concerns and any that might come from other individuals and organisations locally can be resolved without an inquiry remains to be seen.

The consultation begins next month and if any Gurnites have any comments for or against they would do well to read the document here. Page 63 is where Nairn is listed and page 65 gives a map of development sites, from page 66 you can see further details of the sites and the potential numbers of houses that could go on each of them.

Here at the Gurn we hope to discuss the forthcoming consultation in greater depth in the near future.