This observer was a little late in getting to the event organised by the Nairnshire Community Councils which took place in the Community and Arts Centre last night (Tuesday 7th July). Malcolm MacLeod, the head of Planning and Building Standards at Highland Council had accepted an invitation to take questions on the current situation in the development of the various local plans, as the CCs put it themselves: “ This will allow us to raise any questions or issues with the Plans and for Malcolm to explain the process of the development of all three plans and their passage through committee. Lastly, we want to know the application of the Plans when it comes to development and change of land use.”
It was immediately obvious however, that there were many residents from the Lochloy/Kingsteps area of the town present who were both angry and cynical about the way their submissions to the Inner Moray Firth Local Development Plan had been handled by Highland Council. Basically they believe their objections and submissions regarding the proposal for zoning for another 90 houses on land at South Kingsteps, just beyond the existing zoned housing scheme areas, had been ignored. Malcolm MacLeod and Scott Delgarno of the planning department were in the hot seats as those present asked tough questions.
One resident said: “Why consult and then ignore and pass it on to a Reporter sitting down in Edinburgh who hasn’t a clue where Kingsteps is? Why not, when we’re faced with genuine factors that the access road isn’t compatible, it can’t be used. The density is not compatible. Why don’t you say, “ah wait a minute, these people have got a point there, we should amend this accordingly?” Just ignore it and pass it down to Edinburgh, he’ll sort it out. It just doesn’t make sense and our own councillors they sit on their backsides and do bugger all.”
There then followed another question about approving the housing density proposed at Kingsteps. Scott Delgarno (another planner present along with Malcolm) replied:
“The answer we would give is that you wouldn’t be able to approve a housing plan there in detail without being satisfied that all of the design considerations have been met. That’s a 6.3 hectare site and we’ve indicated a possible density of around 90 dwellings. Now, at the start of the plan, at the very front of the document we’ve stipulated that for some of the sites where we have a clear master plan we’ve had to use a broad possible density for each of those development sites. But that is not saying that those ninety homes will happen. It’s just giving a possible density. We do also have to consider that in the plan we very clearly stipulated what developer requirements – the issues that would have to be satisfied if, indeed that site ever did come forward for development and transport issues are one of the things that would be identified against that. We’d need to be absolutely happy that appropriate access for all roads is delivered.
Another member of the public then said: “Why don’t you stick to the original housing in Kingsteps which is 2 per acre?”
There was then a slight momentary lull in the discussion which another resident filled with the words “deathly silence.”
Malcolom MacLeod responded: “It’s deathly silence because nothing I can say will satisfy you. We have a duty to find land for housing - that is our duty.”
There was an interruption: “You’ve to look after the people of Kingsteps.”
“We’ve got to look after everyone in Highland,” continued the head of planning and building standards. “In its broader sense as opposed to just.” There followed another interruption from the floor.
“Any rural development has got to be sympathetic to the existing community.”
“To be fair, rural development can mean one thing to one person and another...this is at the edge of a settlement which is always going to be an area which comes under pressure for development as you well will appreciate I’m sure. That’s where growth happens whether we like it or not,” said Malcolm.
Another statement came from the floor: “I think we would accept that [...] if it carried on at the existing density of this rural hamlet, or whatever you want to call it we wouldn’t be so much against it. It is just this number of houses, the density you are talking about which is just not in keeping.”
|Malcolm MacLeod (standing) responds to a question, on his left fellow planner Scott Delgarno|
Dick Youngson and Alastair Noble on the right.
Malcolm quickly responded: “Well listen if we’ve made a bonkers decision and put a density which is clearly...obviously it is in your view. If it is absolutely not feasible, I’ll walk away from here tonight, I’ll speak to the planner involved tomorrow morning. I’ll get him to check to make absolutely sure that he’s satisfied that that level of development can be accommodated.”
There were more attempts to intervene from the floor but Dick Youngson ended debate on the South Kingsteps proposal that is now in the Inner Moray Firth Local Development Plan and heading towards a Scottish Government Reporter for his or her professional analysis.
There are obviously many residents aggrieved that their submissions to the consultation on the South Kingsteps proposal for 90 houses were not taken into account. Not only were many residents opposed but also Nairn’s three Community Councils. In this previous Gurn article here we took a look at some of the submissions and linked to further criticisms made by residents that were placed in an online document by Highland Council.
The meeting continued with many more interesting comments made by residents and critics of Highland Council planning policy. We hope to bring you more of what those present had to say and the responses from the planners when time permits.