Minutes of Meeting of the Caithness, Sutherland and Easter Ross Planning Applications and Review Committee held in the Duthac Centre, Shandwick Street, Tain on Tuesday 4 November 2008 at 10.30am.
Mr D Mackay
Mr G Farlow
Lady M Thurso
Mr W Fernie
Mr R Coghill
Mr J McGillivray
Mr R Durham
Mr W Ross
Mr A Torrance
Non-Members also present:
Mrs D Mackay
Mr A Rhind
Officials in attendance:
Mr A Todd, Area Planning and Building Standards Manager
Mr C Stewart, Area Roads and Community Works Manager
Mr B Robertson, Principal Planner
Miss K McLeod, Principal Solicitor
Miss A Macrae, Administrator
Mr D Mackay in the Chair.
1. Apologies for Absence and Declarations of Interest
Apologies for absence were intimated on behalf of Mr R Rowantree, Mr D Bremner, Mr G Smith and Mr M Rattray.
Mr A Rhind reported that because he had written to the Area Planning and Building Standards Manager in support of application 3.2 detailed below, he had been advised it would be inappropriate for him to exercise his local Member vote. He questioned the advice on the grounds that the principle of housing on the application site had already been established, and that he had sought only to support his constituent who had been unable to fulfil one of the conditions attached to a previous permission. He expressed his disappointment that Members could not represent their constituents in this way without becoming involved in such legal issues.
The Principal Solicitor confirmed that she had offered the advice to Mr Rhind that he should not take part in the Committee’s consideration of the item having expressed his support for the applicant. The Councillor’s code of conduct advises that indicating such support effectively predetermines an application prior to the full information about the application being available, and therefore any determination could be open to challenge. On this basis she had advised Mr Rhind that it would not be appropriate for him to take part in the determination of this item.
2. Minutes of Meeting of 23 September 2008
The Minutes of Meeting held on 23 September 2008, copies of which had been circulated with the agenda, were approved.
3.1 Erection of House and Detached Garage at Plot 1, Land to East of Fairfield, Portmahomack for Mr and Mrs R Macdonald (08/00196/FULSU)
Mr A Rhind had applied for and been granted a local Member vote in relation to this item.
There had been circulated Report No. PLC-53-08 by the Area Planning and Building Standards Manager recommending approval of the application 08/00196/FULSU for the erection of a house and detached garage at Plot 1, Land to East of Fairfield, Portmahomack for Mr and Mrs R Macdonald.
The Chairman agreed that the application would proceed under the Hearings Procedure.
The Principal Planner summarised the application, the consultations carried out and the representations received. He reported that there were no technical objections to the application and that while outline planning permission existed for a single storey house on this site, the application in this case was for a one and a half storey house, noting the difference in height from the adjacent existing house was marginal.
The Chairman invited the applicants to present their case. Mr Peter Harrison, the applicants’ agent, circulated copies of plans displaying different house types together with approximate ridge heights. He clarified that the proposed house would be a single storey house with rooms in the roof space, and therefore the design had incorporated trusses to allow for the additional accommodation. He also confirmed that the gable end upstairs window was small, minimising any impact on privacy.
Responding to questions from Members, Mr Harrison confirmed that the ridge height shown on the plans, had been included for scaling purposes only, and that the actual height would be 6.2m, as detailed in the report. He also advised that the upstairs gable end window had been included to conform with the relevant technical standards as a means of escape, and that if necessary this could be formed of obscure glass to minimise any loss of privacy.
The Chairman then invited the objector to state his case. Mr Darren Mackay stated that the application was for a one and a half storey house which was not in keeping with the other properties in the area. He pointed out that his application for a one and a half storey house adjacent to the application site had been refused, and that he had not been permitted to incorporate trusses into the design, so as to prevent further development. He welcomed the proposal to install obscure glass in the upstairs gable end window, and sought clarification on the minimum standards in relation to separation distances between his property and the application site, proposals for boundary treatments, and reassurances as to what safeguards will be put in place to ensure that the ridge height of the property does not exceed 6.2m, advising that he had written to the Planning Authority on these matters but to date had not received a reply.
At this point Mr A Torrance declared an interest in this item on the grounds of his involvement in the construction of the objector’s property, arising from his business interests, and proceeded to leave the meeting for the remainder of the duration of this item.
In accordance with the procedure the Chairman declared the Hearing to be at an end and sought confirmation that (i) there were no further parties wishing to speak, and (ii) the parties were satisfied with the way in which the Hearing had been conducted. There were no members of the public wishing to speak, and the applicants’ agent and the objector confirmed that they were satisfied with the way the hearing had been conducted, subject to the objector, Mr D Mackay asking for a response to his question as to how the development would be monitored to ensure the proposed ridge height was not exceeded.
The Principal Planner advised that a condition could be attached to any permission that the upper gable end window be constructed from obscure glass. The maximum height of the house could also be controlled by condition, and it would be the Planning Authority’s responsibility to monitor this during the construction process. The report also included conditions relating to boundary treatments, and requiring the site to be pegged out before the commencement of any works.
During the debate Members commented as follows;
• The height difference between the proposed and existing property was only 0.10m, and therefore the proposal was acceptable in terms of its design
• The separation between the development and the neighbouring property would be relatively wide and it would be unfair to ask the applicants to install obscure glass in what would be an upstairs bedroom window
• Clarification was sought as to why the objector had been refused permission for either a one and a half storey house or the opportunity to convert the roof space in a single storey house
• Concern was expressed that no response had been received in connection with the objector’s letter, the suggestion being that the Council’s standards for responding to correspondence should apply.
• Further information was requested in relation to the process of pegging out of the property
The Area Planning and Building Standards Manager advised that all letters received from objectors are acknowledged, but that it not the practice for officials to become involved in lengthy correspondence with all objectors given the time issues which would be involved. The Principal Planner explained that on the basis of the information before him he could not comment on the objector’s previous application. He also confirmed that no minimum separation distances applied in this area, and that the site could be pegged out with the officials, applicants and objector present so that all parties were aware of the proposals for the site.
Following further discussion, the Committee agreed to grant the application subject to the conditions detailed in the report.
Mr A Rhind left the meeting at this point.
3.2 Removal of Condition no.6 (Amendment to Erection of Four Houses, in Outline) and Erection of Houses at Plots 1 and 4 Chapelhill Pitcalnie for Mr James Campbell (08/00287/FULSU, 08/00098/REMRC and 07/00658/REMRC)
There had been circulated Report No. PLC-54-08 by the Area Planning and Building Standards Manager recommending (i) approval of the application 08/00287/FULSU by Mr James Campbell for the removal of condition no.6 (Amendment to Erection of Four Houses, in outline) at Chapelhill, Pitcalnie subject to the prior conclusion of a legal agreement to secure a commuted payment to provide for the delivery of affordable housing in the local area and (ii) that determination of the applications 08/00098/REMRC and 07/00658/REMRC for the erection of houses at Plots 1 and 4 Chapelhill, Pitcalnie be deferred until such time as the developer paid a commuted sum to provide for the delivery of affordable housing in the area.
The Principal Planner read from a letter received from the applicant outlining his efforts to comply with the condition to provide affordable housing and approaches made to both Albyn Housing Society Ltd and the Council in this regard over a considerable period of time, and noting that the affordable housing threshold as set out in the Local Plan applied to developments of ten units or more.
During discussion, Members expressed the following views:
• The current policy position as contained in the Ross and Cromarty East Local Plan provided for an affordable housing contribution for developments comprising ten units or more.
• Reference was made to other developments in the local area comprising less than ten units where there was no requirement for the developer to provide affordable housing
• Discussions with the Council’s Housing Service cast doubt as to whether a commuted sum was being sought as suggested in the report
• The construction climate and the value of properties had altered over recent times, and the payment of the commuted sum would impact significantly on the development
• Concern was expressed at the difficulty the applicant had encountered in progressing the development with the relevant agencies, having made an offer of a commuted sum to which no response had been received
• There had been a failing in the system with neither the Council or social housing provider having the desire to assist a small developer
• Given the timeframe involved since the development had been approved, and the current economic downturn, the removal of the condition should be supported
Following further discussion, the Committee agreed that the application 08/00287/FULSU seeking the removal of Condition No.6, providing for the delivery of affordable housing, attached to the previous permission 05/00178/OUTRC, be granted so that the condition was deleted in its entirety, on the grounds that the a considerable period of time had lapsed since the original permission had been granted and the current policy position as contained in the recently adopted Local Plan provided for an affordable housing contribution for developments of ten units or more. The Committee further agreed that the applications 08/00098/REMRC and 07/00658/REMRC be determined by the relevant officials under delegated powers.
3.3 Part Demolition and Reconstruction of Existing Boundary Wall, Widening of Junction of C Class Road to Clynelish with A9 Trunk Road and Repairs to Listed Building (Listed Building Consent and Planning Permission) for SSE Generation Ltd (08/00316/FULSU and 08/00317/LBCSU)
Mrs D Mackay had applied for and been granted a local Member vote in relation to this item.
There had been circulated Report No. PLC-55-08 by the Area Planning and Building Standards Manager recommending approval of the applications 08/00316/FULSU and 08/00317/LBCSU by SSE Generation Ltd for the part demolition and reconstruction of existing boundary wall, widening of junction of C class road to Clynelish with A9 trunk road and repairs to listed building (listed building consent and planning permission).
Mr W Ross referred to suggestions from certain parties that he had a conflict of interest in respect of this application, because he had seemed to support the Kilbraur access route to the Gordonbush Wind Farm. While he did not consider there to be any such conflict, on the basis that he had acted in the best interests of his constituents after the Wind Farm had been approved by Scottish Ministers, he was concerned about any perception of a conflict. Therefore he had decided, with regret, to withdraw from the determination of the application, so as not to bring about any suggestion that he would compromise either the work of the Committee or himself.
Mr W Ross then proceeded to leave the meeting.
The Committee heard from the local Members advising that the Schoolhouse was becoming increasingly derelict and an eyesore, and that the developer had a duty of care to provide for its sensitive restoration. However, the repairs outlined in the report did not adequately reflect the level of works required and therefore the developer should be asked to bring forward full proposals for its restoration.
Turning to the access arrangements, the local Members indicated that an alternative route using the Kilbraur Wind Farm site access road existed as a viable alternative access, and that this option would avoid any disruption to the local communities. SSE Generation Ltd had also assessed this route as being viable and discussions were ongoing between the developer and the relevant landowners on this matter. The full weight of local public opinion lay in favour of the alternative route, and this option would protect the villages from disruption and potential damage to infrastructure, and address road safety concerns. Therefore taking these factors into account, a proposal was made that the application be deferred to the next scheduled meeting of the Committee, pending the outcome of negotiations between the developer and other relevant parties.
Further comments expressed were as follows:
• A question was raised as to whether there may be any clause in the title deeds restricting the future use of the building
• Doubts were expressed about the ease with which turbines could be transported via the Clynelish road
• Any application for the demolition of the wall should form part of an overall application for the restoration of the Schoolhouse. The proposal to remove the wall would impinge on the grounds, and destroy the character of the building. The application as submitted was therefore incomplete and should be refused.
• The view was also expressed that heavy loads had been transported via the communities of Golspie and Brora for other wind farms further north without damage, and that, furthermore, if an alternative route was used then there was the possibility that the developer may not then restore the Schoolhouse.
Responding to issues raised by Members, the Principal Solicitor clarified that any title or legal restriction will be a matter for the applicant to resolve separately from the planning application. She also reminded Members that the Clynelish road was the consented route for the Gordonbush Wind Farm.
The Committee agreed to defer consideration of the application to the scheduled meeting of the Committee on 20 January 2009, pending the outcome of ongoing negotiations between the applicant and other relevant parties in connection with the potential use of a viable alternative access to the Gordonbush Wind Farm site, via the Drummuie/Kilbraur site access road. It was further agreed that should the negotiations be completed before the next scheduled meeting of the Committee on 9 December 2008, then the application be brought forward to this meeting.
4. Schedule of Meetings - 2009
The Committee approved the following schedule of meetings for 2009 on the basis that flexibility would be retained in relation to the venues depending on the nature of the business to be considered at each meeting.
5. Delegated Decisions
The Committee noted that the list of delegated decisions of planning applications was available via The Highland Council Website.
The meeting concluded at 12.15pm.