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 20 January 2009 at 10.30am.
Mr D Mackay
Mr G Farlow
Mr R Rowantree
Lady M Thurso
Mr W Fernie
Mr G Smith
Mr R Coghill
Mr J McGillivray
Mr R Durham
Non-Members also present:
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 K McCorquodale, Principal Planner
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 W Ross, on other Council business, Mr M Rattray and Mr A Torrance
2. Minutes of Meeting of 9 December 2008
The Minute of Meeting held on 9 December 2008, copies of which had been circulated with the agenda, were approved
3. Minutes of Meeting of 13 January 2009
The Minute of Meeting held on 13 January 2009, copies of which had been circulated following the issue of the agenda were approved
4.1 (i) Care Home for the Elderly and (ii) Access Road with Bus Turning and Drop Off Area, Extension of Car Park at (i) Land 40m to North West of Craighill Primary School, Tain and, (2) Craighill Terrace, Tain for The Highland Council 08/00407/OUTSU and 08/00408/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-03-09 by the Head of Planning and Building Standards recommending approval of the applications 08/00407/OUTSU and 08/00408/FULSU by The Highland Council for (i) care home for the elderly and (ii) access road with bus turning and drop off area, extension of car park at (i) Land 40m to North West of Craighill Primary School, Tain and (ii) Craighill Terrace, Tain, subject to the conditions detailed in the report.
Referring to Condition 5 on Page 23 of the report, Mr K McCorquodale, Principal Planner, confirmed that a subsidy of £5 - £10k had been considered appropriate for a care home development, towards improving and enhancing public transport facilities, taking into account the contributions sought from developers of other retail and housing developments in Tain. The proposals being considered under safer routes to schools such as the provision of a new puffin crossing at Craighill Terrace, would be discussed and promoted through the road construction consent, and therefore did not necessarily have to form part of the application.
Mr A Rhind, one of the local Members, expressed his support for both applications and the amendments that had been incorporated into the proposals for Craighill Primary School, since the original application had been determined by the Committee. There had been considerable discussion between the Council and the School and Parent Council to promote the safety aspects of the application and he was confident the proposal would create a safe environment for school children going to and from the School. His only reservation in respect of the application was the condition relating to the transport subsidy, and whether a travel plan was appropriate for a care home development of the nature proposed, and whether the enhancement of public transport in the area was required, for either the residents or visitors.
Mr R Durham advised that he was comfortable with both developments and the amendments made to the applications so that a staggered junction would be provided rather than a roundabout, and the proposals for traffic and pedestrian management at Craighill Primary School. However he was concerned that as the Council was the applicant in this case and in the interests of public scrutiny, the reserved matters for application 08/00407/OUTSU should be brought back to the Committee for consideration.
Mr G Smith expressed concern that the application would result in the loss of open space and therefore would impact on amenity. He was also not aware of the Housing and Social Work Committee committing funds to the expenditure that would result from the imposition of a travel subsidy. He suggested that the fact the Council were seeking a site for a care home may have influenced the officials recommendations in this case, and that the application should be referred to the Scottish Government to allow an objective view to be taken of the applications.
Mr K McCorquodale, Principal Planner, responded to the points raised, and reported that the application for reserved matters would be subject to the rigour of the planning process in the normal way, which would include public consultation. The transport subsidy of the nature proposed would be required of a private developer and therefore the Planning Authority had to be even handed in its treatment of the Council as a developer, and he recommended that the condition be retained. He indicated that there was a need to enhance public transport provision in Tain, noting that subsidies had been secured through other housing and retail developments in the town, and that it was crucial TEC Services secured this money to fund a dial-a-bus service which he believed would be an appropriate service for visitors to the care home.
Further comments from Members referred to the fact that the existing older adult unit in Tain was not fit for purpose, and the proposed site was located close to the school and associated facilities, would provide the residents with the interaction necessary to extend their lives and interests. The enhancement of public transport in Tain should also be welcomed.
Responding to questions, Mr K McCorquodale, Principal Planner, explained that TEC Services utilised the transport subsidies secured from developers to offer bus companies an initial subsidy for a period of three years to run extended services over and above those tendered for, to test whether an enhanced service would be successful. New developments generated customers and additional demand for services, and planning gain could therefore be utilised to provide additional public transport services. Resources of between £100 - £150k had been generated from developments in Tain and would allow the provision of a dial-a-bus service, where customers could order a service on demand rather than through the extension of regular services.
The local Member, Mr A Rhind, responding to points raised contradicted the view that there would be a loss of amenity resulting from the development advising that there was little recreational use of the open space in this area. He also confirmed that the Housing and Social Work Committee had considered two potential sites for a care home in Tain, both options having been subject to extensive public consultation, and the Craighill site was chosen as the preferred option.
Thereafter Members reiterated the point that the reserved matters application should be brought back to the Committee in the interests of public transparency. The view was also expressed that an equal contribution in terms of the transport subsidy should be sought from the Council as with any other developer, and support was expressed for the subsidy.
Mr R Rowantree sought a further report on how the funds generated by travel subsidies, and held by TEC Services are managed and administered. The Area Roads and Community Works Manager confirmed that he would ask the relevant officials within his Service to provide a report on this matter.
The Committee agreed to grant the applications 08/00407/OUTSU and 08/00408/FULSU subject to the conditions detailed in the report, and to the reserved matters application(s) in respect of application 08/00407/OUTSU being brought back to the Committee for consideration, and to it being delegated to the Head of Planning and Building Standards, in consultation with the Chairman and the three local Members to determine the case for final notification of the applications to the Scottish Government, following consideration of any further comments received from objectors.
Mr A Rhind left the meeting at this point.
4.2 Erection of New Dwelling House, Alteration and Improvement of Existing Access, Installation of a Septic Tank, Puraflo System and Soakaway to the North West of Rosebank Cottage, Culrain, Ardgay for Mr G Munro and Mrs I Munro 08/00330/FULSU
There had been circulated Report No. PLC-04-09 by the Area Planning and Building Standards Manager recommending approval of the application 08/00330/FULSU for the erection of a new dwellinghouse, alteration and improvement of existing access, installation of a septic tank, puraflo system and soakaway to the north west of Rosebank Cottage, Culrain, Ardgay subject to the conditions detailed in the report.
The local Members, Mr R Rowantree and Mr G Farlow, advised that on balance they favoured the recommendation to approve the application, there being no objection to the application on purely planning grounds. The existing access was located on a blind bend and any improvements to this would be welcome. It was also reported that tourists often mistook the road as the route to Carbisdale Castle, and therefore it was suggested that a ‘no through road’ sign be erected at the junction, which would also serve to protect the road surface which was in poor condition in several places. It was also important that the development be regarded as a house and not a second home, and important to the sustainability of the local community.
Members also commented that there was a need to retain young local people in the area, through developments of this nature, and while sympathetic to the concerns regarding the possibility of the application site being part of the battlefield of the Battle of Carbisdale, the application should be supported
Responding to the concerns raised in relation to the condition of the public road, the Area Roads and Community Works Manager confirmed the road was to undergo an engineering assessment, and that he would investigate the possibility of erecting a ‘no through road sign’ at the junction with the access.
The Committee agreed to grant the application subject to the conditions detailed in the report.
4.3 Extension to Existing Gravel Extraction Area at Achley Quarry, Poles Road, Dornoch for Mr I Mchardy 08/00312/FULSU
There had been circulated Report No. PLC-05-09 by the Area Planning and Building Standards Manager recommending approval of the application 08/00312/FULSU by Mr I McHardy for the extension of existing gravel extraction area at Achley Quarry, Poles Road, Dornoch, subject to the conditions detailed in the report.
The local Member, Mr J McGillivray, indicated that the main issues associated with the development were the impact on the amenity of the neighbouring households and the geological significance of the esker glacial ridge. In terms of amenity he had contacted the Valuation Board with a view to securing a compensatory element for these properties. He acknowledged the representations received from Dornoch Area Community Council, commenting that the wording contained therein which stated that they ‘could not support’ the application rather than ‘objecting’, suggested that the author viewed the development from other perspectives. The applicant’s requirements also had to be considered and approval would enable the developer to pursue a commercially viable and successful enterprise, which currently employed 40 permanent employees, and generated an estimated £1m in wages locally. The application was therefore vital to the continued operation of the business.
Mr McGillivray expressed concern that, should the application be approved then the attached conditions should be strictly monitored and enforced, observing that there had been questions in the past as to whether the applicant had adhered to conditions imposed by previous permissions.
During discussion emphasis was placed on a robust inspection regime being implemented to ensure the conditions attached to the planning permission were being met, and it was proposed that the term of the planning permission be reduced to allow the operation to be reviewed over a shorter timescale, with reference to a situation in Caithness where a developer had extracted material well in excess of the planning permission. Appropriate safeguards should also be implemented to protect the neighbouring properties from noise and dust. Doubt was expressed as to how critically important the esker was as a geological feature, and that the potential impact on any wildlife would be balanced in the long run. The quarry was a well run facility, and was in effect self policing given its proximity to the town.
Further questions referred to the possibility of a periodic inspection regime being factored into the conditions attached to any permission should the application be approved, and the community council’s comment that they had been assured at the times of earlier applications that the esker ridge would be retained at its existing height, and clarification regarding the mobile concrete lorry on-site operation.
Mr B Robertson, Principal Planner, explained the process associated with the production of concrete on the site, advising that the operator had recently added a second HGV lorry to the readymix operation, and had confirmed that a planning application would be submitted to regularise the use of the site for this purpose and that this was being actively pursued, and responded to the points raised in respect of the ridge height.
The Area Planning and Building Standards Manager gave a commitment that the quarry would be inspected on an annual basis.
The Committee agreed to grant the application for a temporary period of ten years subject to the conditions detailed in the report, and to the prior conclusion of a Section 75 Agreement to cover the restoration and after-care of the site.
5. Part Demolition and Reconstruction of Existing Boundary Wall, Widening of Junction C Class Road, to Clynelish with A9 Trunk Road and Repairs to Listed Building (Listed Building Consent & Planning Permission) for SSE Generation Ltd (08/00316/ FULSU & 08/00317/LBCSU)
Mr R Rowantree declared an interest in this item, as an employee of the Gordonbush Estate, and proceeded to leave the meeting for the duration of this and the remaining items.
Members were reminded that at the meeting of the Committee on 4 November 2008 it was agreed to defer consideration of the above application, 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.
The Committee noted that the applicant had confirmed that negotiations concerning the alternative access were being progressed, and had requested that the application be continued to allow these negotiations to be concluded.
The Committee agreed to a further deferral of the application at the Applicant’s request to allow negotiations on a viable alternative access to be concluded.
6. Scottish Government Directorate for Planning and Environmental Appeals
The Committee noted the details of the following appeals:
(a) Planning Appeal 07/00177/FULSU – Alteration, Upgrading and Extension of Existing Building at Burghfield House, Cnoc-an-Lobht, Dornoch – Appeal Upheld
7. Protocol for the Use of Video-Conferencing Facilities
There had been circulated for noting draft Protocol for the use of video conferencing facilities at meetings, confirmed at the meeting of the Council on 18 December 2008.
During discussion Members observed that according to the protocol the Chairman could not participate remotely, this suggested that any Members using the facility must therefore be at a disadvantage. The view was expressed that while video conferencing may be appropriate for some meetings, it did not work for Committees where important decisions were being taken.
Members noted that Appendix A, containing the list of premises where a link could be requested, had not been attached to the protocol
The Committee noted the terms of the protocol, and agreed that the document be re-issued with Appendix A attached.
8. 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 Noon.