Letter to Highland Council Chief Executive following Planning Approval in Principle 9th June 2020
Lochalsh Community Council
22nd June 2020
Land Adjacent To Auchtertyre Primary School Auchtertyre Balmacara
Ref. No: 19/01443/PIP -
Planning meeting 9/6/20 – Approved
Dear Ms Manson,
Lochalsh Community Council would like to express our total dismay at the above decision to grant PIP for Auchtertrye Development and our concern at the method the decision was reached. We appreciate that under current Scottish Planning Regulations there is no third party right of appeal but, nonetheless, we, as a Statutory Consultee, must register the Community Council's disappointment.
Watching the process on line, and having read the planners’ report in detail, we would make the following comments;-
1. Although the report was very thorough and addressed all the issues raised by consultees, the primary school and objectors, it did not, in our opinion, answer or counter many of the valid objections and concerns raised. It merely seemed to be a tool to satisfy the process, such that those members of the committee with less interest in the area could vote in favour of approval.
2. The planning officers and chair seemed to be more concerned with completing the process in order to satisfy Scottish Government's requirement to continue to make decisions despite the current circumstances, rather than to allow more time for proper and adequate consultation. We think that their determination resulted in a decision made with undue haste.
3. On that point, we and other objectors have repeatedly stated that we believe it callous to proceed with the application during COVID 19 lockdown, when, due to the applicant’s tardiness, further promised consultation became impossible. Allowing that condition to be satisfied by the applicant contacting all parties with a revised proposal is a one-way process and not at all an acceptable form of consultation. The request by one Councillor to delay the decision should have been given proper consideration.
4. The valid objections and observations raised by Cllr Biz Campbell and supported by the other local councillor, particularly relating to the effect the development would have on Auchtertyre Primary School, were not given adequate consideration.
5. The Planning Officer's repeated assertion that this is only Planning in Principle cuts no ice. It seemed to be a merely a ploy to encourage councillors to vote for the proposal. The decision is now one the school and local residents will have to live with and, as one member of the committee pointed out, it was exactly the principle of the proposal that people were objecting to.
6. It was noted by the meeting that the Education Department had withdrawn their objection follow the “gift” of land to the school. This was despite the fact that the applicant made the offer unconditionally and the subsequent withdrawal was made without any consultation with the school and parents on the other remaining issues.
7. It was also made clear at the meeting that the development in its current form is partially on Highland Council land. Although not a planning consideration, the Highland Council’s position re sale of this land to the developer could be seen to affect the committee’s decision.
8. Finally the online process seemed questionable at times. This has been raised by others and should be looked into independently.
The core of the matter is that the local community, the local councillors, and, not least, the local primary school do not want this development in its present form. This approval will now be a millstone around the community’s neck, seriously restricting the plans the school and community have in improving and enhancing the area. This will continue until such time as the applicant finds a developer to purchase the land and detailed planning permission is applied for. A most undesirable situation.
We would appreciate your further action and comments.
7th May 2020
This a recent letter to Highland Coucillors re gift of land to Auchtertyre school from Lochalsh Estates
Hope you are well.
Lochalsh Estates, as developer, has committed to transferring an area of land adjacent to the west of Auchtertyre PS to The Highland Council at nil value in part compensation for their proposed development of a local housing area adjacent to the school. The area of land to be transferred is indicated on the attached marked up drawings outlined in Red (Area 1 and Area 2).
The commitment has been made through discussions coordinated by Planning on the PIP application currently being progressed. The commitment by Lochalsh Estates is not dependent upon any decision on the PIP or on any subsequent application to Planning. In addition to the land transfer, there are further compensatory actions that the developer will be required to undertake should they proceed with their proposal. These are identified in the PIP. The Planning reference is 19/01443/PIP.
ECS is content with the proposal for the future of the school.
Members approval is sought for the land acquisition.
For your convenience, should I not hear from you by 14tht May 2020 I will assume you are satisfied with the proposal and instruct the legal department to formalise the transaction.
Should you have any questions or wish to discuss the matter please do not hesitate to contact.
Ricky Cheng | Estates | Highland Council Headquarters
Please see below our Statutury Consultee comments. This has been posted on the Planning application on Highland Council website.
PLANNING APPLICATION 19/01443/PIP
AUCHTERTYRE DEVELOPMENT – REVISED MASTERPLAN
Response from Statutory Consultee – Lochalsh Community Council
We would refer to our previous submission dated 30/4/2019, which is listed as an Objection Comment in the application documents online.
We see only minor and peripheral changes in the revised master plan and, therefore our position remains the same in that we must continue to register our objection to this scheme as it stands.
We also now have have further concerns about the circumstances of this PIP submission which adds to our current opposition to the scheme viz;-
The applicant contacted Lochalsh Community Council on 17th January 2020 wishing to present the revised scheme to the community. We suggested that to enable proper consultation with all interested parties, they should arrange a suitable location and time which we would support and advertise. Despite repeated calls from our secretary no such arrangements were finalised in the ensuing couple of months and then it became impossible to hold such a presentation/consultation due to COVID-19. Nevertheless, the applicant proceeded with the PIP submission. We believe this to be an unacceptable process, and quite callous in the current pandemic circumstances and has not allowed for adequate consultation with local residents and the primary school and parents.
We would recommend that PIP is refused until further consultation can take place.