At the meeting of the Community Councils last Tuesday night in the Community and Arts Centre, Dick Youngson, chairing the meeting, detailed the aftermath of the South Nairn planning application and the grounds that the Scottish Government’s reporter had refused the appeal. There followed a lengthy discussion during which the shortcomings of consultation and the determination of Highland Council planners to push through their aims were debated. There was doubt expressed that a new way forward could be found. Cllr Michael Green was optimistic that the Community Could work with his Council however, he said:
“The Highland Council is the lead agency; they will continue to be the lead agency for planning, for development. We have to work with them. It really doesn’t create the right atmosphere if we demonise them. Yes we can have our own opinions as you have but we have to work with them. If nothing comes out of it and they don’t accept what we’ve said and I’ve said this all along with consultation and listening to what we’re saying we’re just going to face more and more Nairn Souths. They know that, they do not wish to be facing Nairn Souths. Nor do we wish to be facing Nairn Souths. So unless it’s genuine and they make the first step, then I think we’ve got to trust the officers of Highland Council and hope that they are genuine and that they wish to work in a partnership because that is the only way ahead, it really is.”
Brian Stewart, Secretary of West CC was more wary though he said:
“We do actually want to get away from the adversarial position, we do actually want to work together because the penalty of not working together is a bloody great big, fat bill to the Council, a lot of grief and aggro and cost to them. If nothing else we have got to convince the Council that is in their interest as planning authority, to consult fully, pay attention and get it right. It is not enough to go through the motions, smile sweetly, have meetings and then go off and do your own thing.
The key thing is to make sure that they give substance to the notion of working together. Whether it is possible to do that with the level of, how can I put it, ideology or fixed determination that we have observed of the planners is I think still a fair question. We know there have been personnel changes within the last few years at Highland Council. It is an open question whether the Council as the Council needs to look carefully at the staffing and the senior decision making within the planning department and perhaps suggest that there be some changes because it is a question of leopards changing their spots.
I don’t want to be in an adversarial approach. I’m very much in favour of working with Michael and indeed the planners to try and get things right. The big question for the Council is is are they, the planning officials, willing to get it right.”
It could be that we will find out soon enough if there is to be a new relationship between Highland Council planners and the Community. Loreine Thompson of the Residents Concern Group made a contribution at the closing stages of debate on this topic:
“Bearing in mind that we already had such a bad transport assessment or assessments because we had three of them, basically the Tec services at Highland Council should have really thrown it straight out the window. We now have as an example of Highland Council wanting to work with us as the community. Here is the first test, they are now saying that they want to dispense with the roundabout that they are proposing for Delnies and put in a Ghost Island and yet I have just read that the proposals from Transport Scotland for Drumnadrochit which is accessing onto the A82 and they are basically saying if you are going to access onto the A82 you need a four armed roundabout. So it is the consistency of Transport Scotland and what they are saying and how our Tec services are replying to the planning staff. So as a first test of how all this is going to work with the community the Delnies one is just coming right up."